One other speaker who really caught my interest was Genevieve Shore, Penguin’s digital director. She made some great comments about the importance of creative talent. As someone who gets paid to be creative with writing, it was music to my ears.
Regardless of what medium you use to publish - good old books, ebooks, web, mobile devices - it doesn't matter how clever your technology is if the content it delivers doesn't do the job it's supposed to do. That requires thought, composition, creativity - stuff that is unique. Genevieve refered to Kevin Kelly's excellent commentary about how content in the world of the web needs to be 'better than free.' Kevin's stuff is fascinating.
It frustrates me a great deal that due to a few early philanthropic souls - those pioneers of the web deciding to share everything for free - we are now stuck with this perception that if it's on-line it must be free. I don't get this. Both I and Genevieve commented on the importance going forward of micropayments. People are prepared to pay for stuff even online (I really believe this) if it really fulfills a need for them. Take the example of Lonely Planet which I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago. It offers downloadable PDF files of chapters from some of its books for relatively modest payments. If that encourages exponential numbers of people to buy then ultimately it will be more lucrative than selling the complete guidebook at a far higher price to far fewer people.
Joel Brandon Bravo from What's On When threw in a useful observation later in the afternoon about this too. He pointed out that whilst people expect to get stuff on-ine for free, they are very familar with paying for stuff on their mobiles (think ringtones, games etc) and of course there's a ready made billing platform in the phone bill. Maybe the short term future for paid for content is on mobile devices?