Fungible Enough: Digital Lunchtime Lecture with Ben Salvesen, Osprey Publishing #DLL15

by Hannah Bright

The title of this particular Digital Lunchtime Lecture gave absolutely nothing away. What does fungible mean, and what could it possibly have to do with publishing? As most of my peers and I have only recently started learning about digital publishing, we’re unsure whether to be excited, apprehensive or just plain petrified about what lies ahead.

(Fungible actually means “being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in part or whole, for another of a like nature or kind”. It turns out Ben likes to drop difficult words into conversation and it seems like this lecture is going to turn out to be very educational!).

Ben’s official title is Publishing Solutions Manager at Osprey Publishing, however, his background and qualifications are in typography and graphic design.  In 2013, Ben was involved in digital aspects when Osprey acquired the Watkins Mind, Body and Spirit imprint and later became Project Manager for the installation of Bibliocloud. For those who are unfamiliar with Bibliocloud, it’s title management software that allows publishers to control their all aspects of their workflow digitally, along with the metadata about their books.  It sounds like an efficient way to manage the publishing process and something I think we, as publishing students, need to consider,.

Since Osprey was purchased by Bloomsbury at the end of 2014, Ben’s responsibility has been to integrate Osprey’s business systems and databases in Bloomsbury’s already existing systems.  A role that he could never have imagined himself taking on, when he first graduated and entered the publishing industry. 

I think I speak for my peers as well as myself when I say that one of the reasons we like meeting and listening to guest speakers is to interrogate them about what they do in their roles. However, the main reason we enjoy these speakers is learning how they got to that position and what advice they can offer us, as publishing students. Ben’s lecture came at exactly the right time for some of us. Panic is starting to set in as we’re fast approaching the summer when we head off into the publishing industry ourselves. This particular digital publishing lecture provided us with the advice we need to help us for the near future.

Ben’s first nugget of advice to us is to:

Keep learning. He suggests that we need to take advantage of any opportunities available as you never know how they will prove useful.  Small things like knowing how to help the editorial team by writing macros. Ben recommends investigating websites like Code Academy,  as learning to code is something that could make us standout from other publishing wannabes.  His examples have show us that learning new skills can actually be quite fun!

Push yourself, Ben makes the valid point that good things happen when you take yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that’s learning about ‘domain forests’ or just a part of InDesign you haven’t used before, you grow as a result of your experiences. If you’ve been given the opportunity to stretch yourself, if people believe in you, then just go for it.

I think the advice that will resonate with me most from Ben’s lecture is not to worry too much about your mistakes. He suggests that as long as you own them, learn from them and definitely try not to make them again, then it’s not the end of the world. With his own experiences to back him up - having once dropped £200k out of a budget forecast - it’s reassuring to hear Ben say that being bad at something is the first step to becoming good at it. I think that might be something we all keep at the back of our minds, especially as we continue on with the course and the working lives.

Ben made it clear that publishing has so many different facets and it’s important not to limit yourself just to one particular area. As there are so many different aspects with the digital side of publishing alone, I’m sure the skills we’re learning and the invaluable advice we’ve been given by Ben will help us whatever path we take after the course is over. 

About the author of this article

Hannah Bright is a MA Publishing student, and a part-time bookseller at Waterstones. You can contact her at @hannahlbright29 or check out her book-related blog at

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 25 Feb 2015 around 4pm

Last edited: 25 02 2015