Virtual conference on digital publishing reaches over 800,000 people around the world

London Book Fair's 'virtual stream' engaged participants via popular social media platforms.

The London Book Fair has launched a 'virtual stream' for its Publishing for Digital Minds conference. The event, which took place last week, engaged with users via a variety of popular social media platforms including Google Hangouts, Twitter, LinkedIn and even email, over the course of a single day across eight international time zones.

According to the organisers, the event generated almost 18 million impressions (defined as "pages, tweets, posts looked at worldwide"), and reached over 800,000 users on Twitter alone, with participants coming from 160 different locations around the world. 

The virtual conference took place over an eight hour period on 18 March, taking the form of a tour around the international book publishing industry. The day began with an email update on the publishing scene in China, and then moved on to a Google Hangout to discuss publishing in Australia, followed by a Twitter conversation with Amir Muhammad, CEO of Buku Fixi, one of Malaysia's most successful publishing companies.  

The event stayed with Twitter for its coverage of India, then moved over to LinkedIn for discussion of the European market before travelling across the Atlantic to Mexico. The day concluded in the USA with a Twitter conversation with Dominique Raccah, CEO of innovative independent publisher Source Books.

As well as bringing people together, the format of the day effectively highlighted differences between book consumption in different geographical settings. Thomas Abraham, managing director of Hachette India, predicted that "95%" of ebooks sold in India were read on mobile phones rather than tablets or ereaders. In contrast, Dominique Raccah focused on the importance of 'omnichannel marketing' and highlighted the importance of ongoing innovation in the book business: "the first place I look to for innovation is Apple. And what they're doing with the Apple Watch is a game changer".

Organisers said that engagement from India, Malaysia and the United States was strong, but virtual participants came from as far afield as Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania.

The 'mix and match' format enabled interested participants to dip in and out according to their areas of interest, and the decision to rely on a relatively 'lo-fi' mix of popular social media networks rather than webcasting or any one specific platform meant that the events of the day were accessible to as many people as possible.  

The London Book Fair takes place on 14-16 April at Olympia in West London.