BookMachine Oxford – by Helen Tozer [REVIEW]

Helen TozerHelen is a ‘Teen fiction fiend’. She works as a  Sales and Marketing Assistant for McGraw-Hill Education by day and is a rugby player and all-round dreamer by night. She has strong ideas on tea and civil rights! This was her third Bookmachine event.

“Overdue a BookMachine fix, it was time I headed to an event outside of London.  I’d been missing out – £5 cocktails and space at the bar? Oxford, we’ll get along fine. As usual, an intriguing mix of people and a welcoming atmosphere made for absorbing conversation. The time flew and I left full of radical digital possibilities, clutching a proudly customised Santa hat.

The Freud Cafe Bar has a confused charm. A former church then theatre, with a high ceiling, stained glass, theatrical lights, and ambiguous statues, it’s sparsely furnished save a bar huddled in one corner and a rudimentary clothes rack. It made for a refreshing venue, spacious and quirky.

The night was in full swing when I arrived so I grabbed a tea and made for the designated Santa hat decoration zone.  Dangerous – I could have been there for hours. After a few minutes and a lot of glitter, I decided it was high time to go and make friends.

I never regret going to a Bookmachine event alone. Laura and Gavin have a knack for attracting genuine people, intelligent and happy to talk publishing – without an obvious agenda. I soon found myself chatting with the animated widget designer Rhys from Bookry and ebook maestro Charlie from YUDU Media.

Having collaborated with publishers to product digital content, Rhys and Charlie have embraced the digital revolution. Rhys highlighted the potential of the current market instability – in stark contrast to publishers that are still preoccupied with what they stand to lose, rather than gain.

Keen to know if other publishing folks shared this optimism, I sought out Gavin. He highlighted the benefit of an adaptive environment, with quick decisions and flat structures facilitating change. Whilst recognising that large companies aren’t always built for speed, he’s convinced that with the right leadership and structure big houses can embrace change. And he liked my hat.

Flushed with all this radical talk, I swung by the bar for a mulled wine and was struck by the uniqueness of publishing intern Alysa’s brightly coloured hair. She’s blended 3 amazing colours and makes it look easy. Yes, I thought. It’s all about embracing change.

Distracted in the rush of saying my goodbyes, it wasn’t until the cold air hit me outside that the wording of my employment contract slowly came to mind. Gazing at my naturally shaded hair, I comforted myself with the belief that publishing can become radical. Given half a chance.”

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