FB innov wshop logoTo the annual Futurebook Innovation Workshop, this year held in the environs of agency LBi’s Brick Lane offices, and curated by the lovely folks at The Literary Platform. A full house of publishing folk assembled to hear a stimulating range of speakers talk about the future of publishing in the face of a continuing onslaught of technical change.

Refreshingly, there was little talk of apps, and even less of eBooks – this year, the focus was on the many ways technology could help to tell a story and create a compelling narrative that people would want to be part of, whatever medium was being used.

HarperCollins group strategy and digital director Nick Perrett kicked proceedings off with a comparison between the computer game and book publishing trades – and while this is hardly a new comparison, he painted a compelling picture of how disruptive digital businesses like Steam and new devices like the iPhone had a monumental impact on the games business, causing some big names to fail altogether and changing the emphasis from shifting boxed product via physical retailers to generating immersive environments where success is measured by average revenue per user over periods of time.

Hollywood story consultant Bobette Buster talked about the fundamentals of the story as they relate to different mediums, copiously illustrating her talk with clips from the likes of Star Wars, ET, The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather. We suspect many audience members were compelled to go home and raid their DVD collections afterwards!

Random House Digital Publisher Dan Franklin, along with author Rob Sherman and friend of Bookswam Alexis Kennedy, founder of Failbetter Games, showcased new “web-based narrative gaming experience” Black Crown; later on Bookswarm clients Cate Cannon from Canongate and Jodie Mullish of Pan Macmillan took part in a panel on using digital channels to market. The final session had some of the wackiest ideas as the panel demonstrated post-digital fusions of digital and physical technology designed to tell compelling stories.

All very provocative and enjoyable – and putting aside our urge to spend more time watching DVDs to properly analyse the construction of the stories – it has reiterated to us that even when creating relatively straightforward digital experiences like websites, we should never lose sight of the importance of the story. As Shakespeare almost wrote, “The story’s the thing!”.