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The Publishing Show 2023: AI, Metaverse and Tiktok continue to reshape publishing.

AI personalisation isn’t without constraint but experts at The Publishing Show 2023 think it has its promises. AI-generated images, however, might not get the same copyright protection as human-generated ones. If that’s no comfort to indie publishers, then perhaps the news that books will be published by TikTok might be a relief.

The shape of things to come

The Publishing Show that we attended in March 2023 enlightened us a bit more on AI’s impact on copyright, and the benefits of immersive technology in storytelling. We wonder how AI will shape the conversation in the upcoming World Book and Copyright Day this month.

The Publishing Show 2023 at Excel in East London was organised together with International Confex 2023, The Retail Supply Chain & Logistic Expo and The PA Show. As members of one of the media partners, The National Union of Journalists UK, we got to attend The Publishing Show and the related events to assess the trends in the service industry’s supply chain.

The morning talk, Succeeding in the Metaverse, given by Patrik Wilkens, VP of Operations, The SoulPublishing, touched on the benefits of Metaverse in promoting publishing contents.

Easing the entry into immersive technology

Wilkens, also the Founder of GAIN, the gaming industry networking group based in Hamburg, Germany, said that Metaverse immersive technology is predicted to generate US$490 billions of revenues by 2030. He presented a concept, a project called @iampolarmusic that uses computer-generated avatar as an online guide. This concept can also be applied to gaming, concert and e-commerce.

The obstacles to virtual reality (VR), he said, are hardware access and usability. The hardware isn’t necessarily comfortable to users and can be expensive. Metaverse, on the other hand, doesn’t require artificial intelligence (AI) or VR. You only need iPads to install Metaverse as an app on your device. The experience, he said, is much like what we see in the film Ready Player One.

@iampolarmusic uses an avatar that guides the user through the music experience. We think this concept, when applied to mindfulness products such as meditation app or when applied to education, can work.

Metaverse and mindfulness

He also observed that what people do on Metaverse, they’re likely to replicate in real life. The application, he said, is a good tactic for the “watch party” marketing strategy, where it brings users together. That makes us think that Metaverse has got some legs. There are definitely plenty of opportunities for mature and vulnerable users, especially in the space of assisted living and mindfulness. Why not organise meditation class via Metaverse?

There are definitely plenty of opportunities for mature and vulnerable users, especially in the space of assisted living and mindfulness.

AI as editing tool

No publishing talk is complete nowadays without a mention of AI. One of the afternoon talks, Is AI-powered personalisation the key to driving audience engagement?, featured case studies relating to online publications.

The speakers were Evan Kypreos, Founder and Director, Platia Digital; Nigel Vincent, Senior Newsroom Engagement Manager, Taboola; Philippa Jenkins, Strategy Projects Editor, Trinity Mirror, and Alex Plim, Global Digital Director of Content, Timeout.

Jenkins said that when journalists saw the results of their works generated by AI, they felt encouraged about the content. The feedback comes in real-time, unlike print products. Her challenge is to motivate editors to do something about the negative data because “the buy-in isn’t always there”.

Plim noted that AI has always been around but it has become more visible with Chat-GPT. The latter gives AI a human touch. The potential lies in helping journalists navigate description and making editors more efficient. He observed that the ability to prompt becomes useful in working with AI.

Kypreos said although AI helps with planning and research, editors need to make sure the content is correct. He advised us to build one’s brand, one’s personality or whatever it is that AI can’t do yet.

The limits of AI personalisation

We asked the speakers how we can optimise on AI personalisation in the age of GDPR and first-party cookie push.

Login is crucial in cookie-based data capture, Jenkins said. She recommended that we constantly review login data to work together with AI personalisation.

Plim said measuring “intent” is key. This can be done by tracking keywords, landing pages and the structure of the user journey.

Vincent said that it’s useful to identify “contextual signals”, that is the anonymous data such as visits, referrals or clicks on the “Read More” links to measure the strength of intention.

More on the Publishing Show 2023

Does an AI-generated image not merit copyright protection?

AI might be a welcome relief to creators who want to escape the tyranny of expensive software subscriptions. Potentially, AI can save you up to £80 a month in Adobe subscription.

Sadly, that didn’t bode well with Kristina Kashtanova, a New York author whose comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, got its images’ copyright protection (soon to be) revoked by the US Copyright Office. Because the AI-generated nature of the images weren’t declared in the original application, the US Copyright Office says the new copyright registration will solely cover the copy, or text, and the image-and-text composition. The images for the comic were generated using Midjourney, a software that creates images using prompts or “natural language description”.

We don’t want to take sides because obviously, the US Copyright Office has their reasons. However, it’s a pity to see independent creatives who can’t afford good illustrators not being able to protect their income because they rely on AI. Hopefully we will get some clarity over this in the future.

TikTok’s publishing ambition

Tiktok hasn’t yet pulled the rug off the feet of major book retailers since announcing their retail ambition in November 2022. At least, that’s the assessment we get from Nielsen via a report by The Bookseller.

But Nielsen also says it doesn’t mean their market isn’t growing. Its hashtag #Booktok has been credited for promoting many books by independent publishers. Amazon, much derided challenger publisher – but also a useful platform for independent authors – was so pleased that the thriller The Stone Maidens by Llyod Devereux Richards sold more than 100,000 copies. The author’s daughter put her father’s book on #Booktok and the book, written 14 years ago whilst he was in a full-time corporate job, went viral.


It’s a beautifully written thriller on Amazon 🥹❤️ #stonemaidens #booktok #authorsoftiktok #thrillerbooks #books

♬ original sound – e

Like other major social media platforms, Tiktok has been useful in driving book sales. Will Tiktok take it a step further and publish books, like Amazon did ages ago? Well, this Tiktoker says it’s about to.

How exciting. Let’s see how it goes.

Paperchase says goodbye

Paperchase, our favourite high street retailer that sold stationery and books, closed its doors in early April 2023, just before Easter holiday. It had been in operation for 55 years. The Fulham Broadway store alone had survived the double-dip recession of 2008 and 2010. But the pandemic floored it.

We used to enjoy visiting the major retail store on Tottenham Court Road. There was a time, when we were just starting out in London in publishing, that we couldn’t afford to buy anything much. Just looking around at that branch was enough to make us happy.

It wasn’t just the Apple Macs and Microsoft suite that contributed to our writing. The pens, notebooks and paper we had bought from Paperchase enabled us to picture our dream characters, construct our dream wireframes and storyboards, and had also helped us to transcribe so many interviews and talks at book events.

We hope we will see another lovingly curated stationery shop in future. For now, it’s thank you and goodbye, Paperchase.