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The Demo That Wasn't and The Conference That Was

You may have noticed we were pretty excited about O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference, which is still going on through the end of today in New York. This is really the place for people who love books, digital technology and the things they can do for each other. Apparently the ranks of people like this are growing. Eight hundred attended this year's conference, compared with 200 last year, when our CEO David Durand gave his Tutorial on Digitizing your Backlist.

Overall, the show was all we could have hoped for. Underlying the rapid attendance growth is a general feeling that 2008 is the breakout year…the year books start to move online in the way other media have over the past dozen years. David Rothman, an influential blogger at Publishers Weekly had just written us up, and interest in our proposition was high.

We were especially excited because this year we were on the program to give a Lightning Demo of Agile PDF, including the first showing of a new control panel that makes creating a digital bookselling site easy, like setting up a blog or a Flickr account is easy. We'll be posting more details over the next day or so.

Unfortunately, the live presentation didn't go the way we planned. The Lightning Demo format allows each presenter exactly five minutes, which under the best of circumstances would be enough to show a tiny fraction of what Agile PDF can do. As it worked out, however, David's login to the demo system timed out while he was waiting to get on stage, and he barely got out of the gate.

That's the breaks of the demo game, but we were disappointed. We were sure (and subsequent one-on-ones bore out) that we had an absolute killer piece of software to show, and we wanted it to get the widest exposure possible.

We'll make up for it by posting screens from the demo here over the next few days (much more detailed than would have fit in the five minutes), and offering web based demos to anyone who contacts us.

Aside from all the interest from publisher prospects, one of my favorite moments came in a panel discussion including Rothman and Tonya Engst of TidBITS Publishing, a true digital pioneer. In response to the longstanding debate over how much ebooks should cost, she said "exactly as much as it takes to maximize revenue." That brought a murmur of approval from the room...including us. Publishers need to find their own answers to these questions, and we designed Agile PDF from the outset to help with that.

I was also pleased when in the same session veteran consultant Mike Shatzkin noted that based on his legwork almost all ebooks being bought nowadays are actually read on computers, despite the buzz about dedicated handhelds like Kindle. Further, he said that PDF was by far the dominant content format, over reader-specific formats, and he professed to be baffled as to why publishers would not sell the PDFs they already have as digital products.

We're glad to be baffled in such good company!

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