MonthOctober 2014

Skipping to the Next Chapter: The Future of the Book (Deborah Poh)

In a society consumed by the notion of constant progress and the desire to obtain the latest technologies, the print book is considered frequently to be a static entity that is outdated as soon as it is published. With the steady proliferation of digital texts online and the recent launching of electronic book subscription services such as “Kindle Unlimited,” the future of the book is a popular topic of discussion by anxious bibliophiles and starry-eyed technophiles alike. Will print books be squashed into oblivion by the convenience and accessibility of electronic books? Will publishing houses continue to survive with the advent of self-publishing and internet giants such as Apple and Amazon? These questions and their kin are difficult to answer accurately without a psychic grasp of the future. However, by examining current trends in the publishing industry with an open mind, it is possible to make some predictions about where the book will fit into our future.

In the space of a decade, I believe that the reading audience will have evolved into a fully-engaged “community” that will interact with the publishing industry to an unprecedented extent. I also will propose that publishing houses will have merged into profitable partnerships with their previous arch-nemeses, the internet corporations that are presently a sizeable thorn in the side of almost every major publishing house. These two changes will completely alter the landscape of the book industry in terms of how books will be created, produced, distributed, and read. The following paper will seek to briefly discuss and explore possibilities for each aforementioned aspect of the book, from its inception to the manner in which it will be consumed by future communities.

Contrary to some opinions, writing will continue to exist as a profession within the next decade; however, this occupation will have evolved into an entirely different creature. With the constant advancements in technologies geared towards creating faster connections between individuals of an online community, our current notions of authorship will have blurred and overlapped boundaries with our present ideas of readership. More specifically, there will be greater instances of different individuals working together to shape the process of writing texts and narratives. These individuals may include both those who consider themselves talented in writing and those who prefer to read and critique such texts. In other words, the writing process will be much more open to public scrutiny than in previous generations; the once passive readership will be able to engage and direct the manner in which a book is written through advanced versions of today’s online forums and other digital means of communication with writers.

This open-ended structure of writing already is evident in the burgeoning success of self-published books in today’s society. While many such texts still remain in digital obscurity, there have been conspicuous exceptions to the rule. Most notably, Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel that originated as Twilight fan-fiction on various websites, exploded into global popularity in 2011 following its publication as an e-book and print-on-demand paperback by The Writers Coffee Shop (Wikipedia). Following its initial word-of-mouth success, the rights to the book were eventually bought by Random House, an exceedingly well-established publishing house. Fifty Shades of Grey would go on to become the highest selling book in British history, a feat quite unprecedented by books of similar mediocre beginnings (John Barber, Globe and Mail, 2012). Therefore, as non-traditional means of publishing texts have become viable paths to success, so too will non-traditional methods of creating texts become the norm in future decades.

Within the next decade, writing will require great flexibility from authors as they strive to adjust to changing models of publishing and distribution of texts. In his post “Are books dead?” James Bradley remarks that many mainstream writers will find it difficult to continue working in their present day capacity; however, those who are most willing to “adapt and experiment will succeed” (City of Tongues, August 2011). As well, esoteric literature such as poems and short stories may fade into the background while non-traditional forms of fiction, created by a “hugely energetic community of writers and artists,” become predominantly popular (James Bradley, City of Tongues, August 2011). In this manner, the future of writing and books becomes a mysterious yet exciting prospect as the blurring of traditional boundaries begins to produce new, cutting-edge forms of storytelling that incorporate the latest technologies and methods of digital communication.

In relation to the physical format of the book within a decade or so, I believe that print books will indeed remain in existence and usage. However, the amount of print books produced, distributed, and sold will have greatly diminished in favour of electronic texts and their like. Even today, the unparalleled accessibility and convenience of e-books are making electronic formats more commonly purchased than print versions. While print books will be still treasured by a certain portion of society, they will be bought more for nostalgia’s sake and prestige than out of actual necessity. For instance, coffee table books, which tend to highlight fashion icons and other lighthearted topics, are bought more for their suitability within one’s home décor scheme rather than for actual literary interest.

From personal experience, I know that I buy hardcover books for their appearance or genre, rather than casual reading. Specifically, I only buy the print book version if it holds sentimental value or if it is a text that can be referenced frequently, such as a manual for photography. If I wish to merely finish a book quickly at home or while travelling, buying the electronic form on my Kobo E-Reader is usually my first choice. As a result, within a decade one can surmise that other formats, primarily versions that exist digitally in some form or another, will become the normal method with which one peruses new topics of interest and entertainment.

The distribution of books is already a great matter of contention between traditional publishers and non-traditional distributors in today’s society. Within ten years, however, these conflicts will be most likely resolved into a mutually profitable relationship for both parties. While publishing houses will strive to maintain standards of writing, design, and marketing, the internet corporations will continually search for the latest and best methods with which to distribute their texts to willing audiences. Similar to the way in which music artists currently use concerts and franchising to profit from a conspicuous online presence, future authors will use either online and community events, such as conventions, as a new source of royalties. For instance, video and computer game designers will create holographic or virtual reality experiences in which die-hard fans can tangibly encounter their favourite scenes, characters, and discover previously undisclosed information. This fusion of storytelling and video gaming already is evident in popular games such as Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda; game-makers have recognized that “story-based” games hold a great appeal for their customers and have even hired writers to add to the complexity of game plotlines (Steven Petite, Huffington Post, 2014). As an outcome, future books will evolve into different formats and seep into other mediums, such as video games. Additionally, audiences will become active players in creating, reading, and disseminating narrative content within their communities.

The reading audience is becoming increasingly important in deciding the successes and failures of the publishing industry. In “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages,” Alan C. Kay gives us valuable insight as to how we should approach the future of the book—we can predict forthcoming patterns of usage by looking toward the book’s future readers. In other words, Kay suggested that we look to how children of today’s society are processing, learning, and utilizing information in order to determine what format would best suit their sensibilities in the future.Within the flourishing digital culture of today, children are immersed in technology from an early age and therefore are more adept at using the latest gadgets than their predecessors. I personally have seen toddlers, who are still unable to speak discernibly, easily navigate the touch technology of iPhones and iPads. These future generations most likely will not miss the feel, smell, or sentimentalism attached to the print book, as would many of earlier generations. Rather, there is a high likelihood that they will prefer the clean touch of touch screens and holographic devices, both of which will become increasingly commonplace in the near future. Consequently, one can determine potential ways in which reading might change in upcoming decades by examining how future generations will best process information and entertain themselves.

The future of the book has created an immense amount of anxiety for the publishing industry as many self-proclaimed authorities spurt out dire predictions of the book’s extinction. However, such prophesies seem to ignore the fact that future books will be merely created in different methods than in the past; online communities in upcoming decades might use new approaches to creating content that do not yet exist. The print book, barring any natural disaster that targets paper products, will continue to exist. However, its role in society will have shifted from a commonplace source of information and entertainment to a status symbol denoting prestige, wealth, and education. Instead of print books being a routine part of daily life, new electronic devices will be used to contain texts in a manner that best suits the lifestyle and work habits of the new generation. Publishing houses will have to forge partnerships with internet giants such as Amazon and Apple in order to survive; these new companies will continue to offer some traditional services while also using new technologies to engage readers to an unprecedented extent. While there is a tendency to jump to rash conclusions regarding the future of the book, it is unlikely that the book as we know it, both print and digital, will completely disappear in the near future. Rather, I prefer to have the confidence that by the time any major developments occur in this area, we will have the tools and knowledge with which to handle any drastic changes.

Works Cited

Barber, John. “What Fifty Shades of Grey taught us about publishing.” Globe and Mail. 11 December 2012. Web.

Bradley, James. “Are books dead?” City of Tongues. 25 August 2011. Web.

“Fifty Shades of Grey.”Wikipedia. Last modified on 18 September 2014. Web.

Kay, Alan. C. “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” Matthias Müller-Prove. August 1972. Web.

Petite, Steven. “The Rise of Storytelling in Video Games.” Huffington Post. 4 January 2014. Web.

The Future of the Book

The future of the book does not mean the death of print or the overtaking of digital. The change will provide and force everyone in the publishing world to rethink where we are heading and were we want to be as well as looking to the consumer as a guide. The culture, business models and consumer experience will change for the better. New devices will continue to be developed, but that doesn’t mean people are abandoning print altogether. Consumers will choose what medium is best for the content they want to consume and it will continue to change as the consumer moves through life. The main point is that the publishers and others involved need to be willing to move with the changes as well. It’s a creative industry and it will have its up and down. What will keep everyone going is their passion for writing, reading and publishing. We all need to look at the change as opportunities to grow and become better.

The book culture is no longer about the publishers being in the driver seat. It’s becoming more personalized and it’s the consumers who are pushing the future (Leddy, 2010). With the growing technology within publishing, the consumer is able to tailor their reading and buying habits in the way that reflects their interest (Leddy, 2010). What I mean by this is, that with the consumers buying books online, eBooks and apps. Their buying habits are used to filter through the many books that get published each year. Consumers are now able to find what they want and when they want it with a click of a button. More and more the consumers are pointing the way, using the devices and reading books how they want to, whether that’s in print, on a e- reader, or tablet. Consumers will not ignore publishers and critics in the industry altogether and only refer to online content. They will look to a publishing house when needed, publishers are still respected and they have a brand that consumers trust when it comes to certain books. Publishers will need to adapt to this change now that they are no longer the driving force. They need to listen to what the consumers want and look at the habits of their consumers. Then update their strategies to better fit this change. Publishers who look at this change as the end of print won’t last in this book culture.

Publishing houses and its role has changed over the years and I do believe it will continue to change. They are no longer seen as the ones who authors are looking to, to get signed to anymore. Self-publishing has changed that. Their roles of holding a brand and editing are still vital but there have been cut backs to editorial staff and staff in other parts of the publishing house (Stropes, 2013). Authors are no longer looking to a publishing house as their only option of getting published. There has been a rise in self-publishing (Flood, 2014). If a publisher doesn’t pick up an author’s proposal they always have the option of going the self-publishing route. I think that self-publishing will continue to take off as in the next few years. Self-publishing offers authors more control on the design, publishing dates, and marketing. Publishers need to not look at self-publishing as a threat in losing out on signing a big book but instead see it as an opportunity. Traditional publishers still have something to offer an author; they just need to resell themselves to authors out there. Hybrid authors can offer a publishing house something they would have thought to pass on. Traditional publishers are able to reach a wider audience that some good self-published books can’t. It’s somewhat of a win-win situation. The author still has control of their digital content but the publishers are able to use their strength in the knowledge of print production, marketing and distribution to reach out to a wider audience for the author (Stropes, 2013). If publishers are not grabbing onto these opportunities that are present through this digital change, the life of a once known publishing house doesn’t look too great right now. Within the trade book publishing companies, it’s currently ‘The Big Five’, but soon I think someone will be bought out and that ‘Five’ will shrink. Marketing in publishing does not seem to be the vital role that is taken care of in house. More and more marketing is out sourced; it’s not what it used to be. For example, authors are now promoting their books through their social media to get their readers excited about buying it and what’s to come, instead of going on book tours. The publishing game is changing and it’s changing quick. It’s not all for the worst, I think it’s a wake up call to publishers that they need to better know what their consumers want. Just like how the music and movie industry have changed to better adopt the needs of their consumers. I see their roles becoming more of an editorial quality check, print production, branding and using that strength to get authors to publish with them rather than self-publish. Publishing houses can use their strengths and restructure it to be their selling point to authors and work with the authors.

With the digital revolution, there is a new option for writers to share their creativity, self- publishing. A concern that comes up with this, is the amount writers are selling/offering their work for. One critic says that this digital revolution will not ‘open up a new era of creativity’ but instead it will cause writers to work for minimum or free and writing will not longer be a profession (Morrison, 2011). I agree with Morrison that the revolution is causing a decrease in pay for writers in advances and royalties. The income might not be as high as what it used to be where advances were 50k (Bradley, 2011), but self-publishing is offering writers an alternative to being published traditionally. It a new channel for them to get their work out there and get a following started. If a publishing house won’t accept their work, this provides a second option. There will be changes to come with the income of authors. If we look to the music industry as a precedent to how musicians are still making money, we see that they were able to find a solution within the pricing of things. The success of the iTunes store shows that consumers are willing to pay for content if it’s priced fairly (Bradley, 2011). Advances to an author are important, it’s their income while they continue to write and finish their book. We do live in a world were a lot of content we read and consume is now free. Piracy has hit publishing hard just like it did to the music industry. Consumers will only pay for what they think is fair and will figure out ways to get the content they want for the price they want, which sometime ends up being free. Like the music industry this phase will pass through as the publishing industry rebuilds their business models. New devices, apps and programs will start to appear as the publishers and authors find creative ways to reach their consumers. I think that more publishers will start to bundle their sales as a way to reach out and get more sales. These are only some ideas. Consumers are willing to pay for content but publishers just need to figure out that right fit to compete with Amazon, Apple and Google. Advances and royalties may go back to the numbers they use to be, but I think they will slowly get closer once publishers find their business model.

I do not see books nonexistent in the future. Physical books will not disappear altogether; there is always a need for them. What might change in the coming future is where these books sit in bookstores. The change from print to digital has affected bookstores quite a bit. When Amazon came into the picture, brick and mortar bookstores started to struggle and they now need to restructure. Bookstores are closing down or reducing the number of titles they have in stock (Nguyen, 2014), especially smaller retailers. Some bookstores are rebranding and no longer limiting themselves to just carrying books. Indigo for example, is Canada’s largest book retail chain (Nguyen, 2014) has been rebranding themselves. They are now a book, gift and specialty toy retailer, incorporating home décor next to their bookshelves. A consumer can walk into an Indigo and walk out with pillows and stationary on top of their purchased book. Indigo is betting hard on books and the company is looking to be more than just a bookseller. They are in the midst of transforming into the world’s first cultural department store. Within an Indigo store, there are now electronic kiosks that sell Kobos, tech accessories and more, all in hope to draw in more customers. Indigo is trying hard to survive in the sinking fall of bookstores and I think they are heading in the right direction. I see bigger book retailers doing the same, looking to other ways to draw in consumers aside from just the books they carry. The smaller bookstores are not able to do the same transformation, instead I see them becoming more tailored and will carry a selection of niche books. Bookstores will become more specialized in certain books and have an image and feel that a customer will go back to because they know they will walk out with what they are looking for. Shopping online is a convenience, but sometime you just don’t know what you’re looking for and that’s when browsing in a bookstore offers a different experience to online shopping. Stores will continue to close down as retails figure out how to restructure, but I am certain that they won’t all disappear.

The future will not be a one-way shift from print to digital. It will be a mix of both in the publishing world. Those who will be successful are the publishers who are able to restructure their business models in a way that takes advantage of both print and digital. At the end of the day, books will always be around as long as there are book lovers out there and with them writers are needed as well. The consumer will continue to lead the path of this transition in publishing, writers and publishers have to be flexible will the changes and adapt along the way.


Leddy, C. (2010). The changing future of books. Writer (Kalmbach Publishing Co.), 123(4), 8-9.

Stropes, E. (2013, March 21). Opportunities in self-publishing. Retrieved from publishing.html#.VCG5lS5dUdI

Bradley, J. (2011, August 25). Are books dead?. Retrieved from

Flood, A. (2014, June 13). Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year. Retreieved from 18m-titles-300m

Morrison, E. (2011, August 22). Are books dead, and can authors survive?. Retrieved from

Nguyen, L. (2014, June 26). Indigo still a ‘huge believer in books,’ says CEO Reisman. Retrieved from

– Karen La, Fall 2014

The Future of the Book

It is hard not to notice that everything in this world is slowly but surely becoming digitally instantaneous. Information we see online is the most obvious and indisputable proof, for it is available at the click of a button. This transformation unfortunately makes it extremely challenging for the publishing industry to secure the longevity of their business (Woll & Raccah, 2014). One of the most prominent concerns is the competition between printed books and eBooks. Ever since the eBook came along, reading on the go has gotten even easier. Whether you’re a daily commuter or traveling the skies, seeing people with an e-reader in their hands instead of a printed book or a newspaper is no longer an uncommon sight. It is clear that eBooks and e-readers have made their mark on the publishing world. This phenomenon, however, provokes most of us to wonder and question where the future of the old fashioned printed books might be. In this paper, I want to put forward a viewpoint that challenges the belief of technological optimists, who feel certain that the existence of a dedicated device for reading, will dominate the traditional way of how we are consume information. I will argue instead that print books will not die; it can and will survive along side e-books, for both are complementary. While there are numerous factors to consider when discussing the matters between eBooks and printed books, to state my argument clearly in this paper, I want focus strictly on two aspects that revolve around books in print form. These aspects include the quality of printed books that digital bits can’t replace or imitate and the usage of printed books in an educational setting. By looking at a printed novel and three researches while making comparisons to books in digital form simultaneously, and by pin pointing both the advantages and disadvantages of the two media, I will conclude that, it is we who choose what forms of medium that best suit our activities and needs, and both versions can work along side to make our life easier, efficient, and better. Technology alone cannot make decisions for us; we are the ones with power to decide the future of the printed books. Even if printed books ever die, it is because our culture changed, not because digital was invented.

The first aspect that revolves around printed books is the guarantee of its quality. In print, you see more focus on design. In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in special editions, beautifully designed, and smartly curated series, and books that really have to be read on paper due to unique layouts or interior art. For instance, the book S. written by Doug Dorst and conceived by J.J. Abrams is an unusual novel in its format. The book composes a story within a story in which portrays a fictional novel written by a fictional author, and hand-written notes filling the book’s margins as a dialogue between two college students hoping to uncover the novel’s secret. The book itself is a work of art. It comes in cardboard sleeve with the book inside that appears as if it is taken off from the shelves of a library, and it even has a musty old-book smell. The book looks old with its cover battered and its pages yellowed and stained. Inside its back cover are “RETURN ON OR BEFORE” and “received” date stamps, along with a stamp advising borrowers to “KEEP THIS BOOK CLEAN.” Furthermore, what makes the book unique and unlike most novels we are normally accustomed to, is the scatteration of loose supplementary materials tucked in between pages. Those materials are high in quality ephemera such as postcards, real napkin map illustration, hand-written notes, newspaper, decoder ring etc. that can fall out of the pages adding to the mystery. The design of the book is extremely extraordinary; it is constructed with intentions to give its readers a very different yet new and exciting reading experience. According to Tsouderos, who reviewed S., the book can be a bit of a challenge to read, but he claims that, “it is fun, and the book feels alive in ways that a digital version would not.” (2013, ¶ 16) Interestingly though, S. is also available electronically on Apple iBook and audibly on Amazon Kindle. Some reviews of the book from suggest that both versions are unpopular. To quote from P. Wood on Amazon, who listened to the story of S., “ the audio version is completely missing the point of the book. You want to read this due to all the cool inserts, margin notes, etc. You’ll miss out on the experience by listening to it…”(Electronic posting, January 6, 2014) Similarly to another anonymous reviewer on iTunes, who experienced reading S. electronically, comments that, “…I love my electro-gadgets…but it is between the pages of the tactile version that one can truly appreciate the work that has gone into the making of this adventure…Seriously. Buy the book.” (Electronic posting, January 9, 2014) One could only feel the excitement when holding the book as a physical thing, and the possessor of wonder that the physical book gives to the reader cannot be translated into digital bits. Digital version of this piece of art simply cannot imitate and replace the sensation that the book gives to its readers. How readers want to experience the book, without the touch and feel of the artifacts tucked in book pages, seeing physical handwritten notes on the margins, and smelling the musty old-book scent, in the end, is up to the readers’ preference. The electronic version of this book, in this case, did not earn more precedence in comparison to the traditional printed book.

Besides the assurance on the quality, printed books also have a significant role in educational setting. For instance, in their Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient research, Woody, Daniel, and Baker (2010) concluded that despite the ubiquity of computers and interactive technology in the lives of undergraduate students, most of them preferred textbooks over eBooks for learning, and their preference is not altered by familiarity with the medium. One respondent in Rose’s (2011) research describes it well; he states that “…to comprehend something fully is to “take ownership of it…”and that, “…[he] must hold it in [his] hands, scribble notes in the margins, underline, highlight, and star important bit” (p. 519) Another respondent further speaks in his opinion that “…with online reading, I don’t physically have it. I can’t make notes on it, it doesn’t feel as here as, you know, it’s kind of there, it’s on the computer…” (p. 519) In the absence of the ability to make the text physically their own, one even goes on further to say that “…sometimes copying and pasting important passages to a Word document… my notes have only a provisional utility. Over time, their usefulness erodes.” (p. 520) These respondents speak to a very important consideration is that learning, retaining, and concentrating becomes difficult when they are in front of a computer or utilizing other handheld devices such as Apple iPad, Samsung tablet, etc. for academic purposes. How useful are technologies for educational purpose here, is questionable. There are various distractions. Facebook, various blogs sites, and other social media platforms are only a click of a button away. A respondent in Rose’s (2011) research says that when somebody goes “dadoop”, the sound of a text message, he will try to ignore it until he gets to the end of the paragraph, but often times, even though he is reading, he is still thinking in his head, “what do they want?” Most of the time, students waste more time not reading than reading, with e-mail and talking to other people. If students are not distracted they would read more than if they were sitting right in front of a computer or utilizing devices that give them to web and other applications.

On October 11, 2010, the University of California conducted the “University of California Libraries Academic e-Book Usage Study” survey, which gives a broader sense of the reasons behind one’s preference on certain medium over another. Depending on the answer to specific conditional questions, respondents were presented questions about their e-book use. 2569 individuals submitted responses, and they were asked to identify their area of study or research, and the majority indicated life and health sciences, followed by physical sciences and engineering. The demographic, evidently, have a significant influence on their choice of medium. However, despite what subject the students are focused on and depending on the users’ preference, convenience and usefulness are perceived as primary attributes of both print books and eBooks. In other words, it is whichever medium serves and gives its users advantage, in turn determines the appropriate and preferred utilization of the medium. In Chan et al. (2011), one graduate student in the humanities and social sciences department describes it well. He states that, “… print books are better in some situations, while e-books are better in others…”(p.11). It is evident that each medium has their role. EBooks, for instance, are great for assessing the book, relatively quick searches or fact checking, checking bibliography for citations, and reading selected chapters or the introduction, it also allows for moving graphics, clips, and interactive links. It is also lighter, easier to carry as one device represents any amount of academic printed books. As stated by a graduate student in the department of business and law, eBook “…reduce[s] the amount of search needed by the students or researchers…a benefit not available via hard copies.” (p.15) However, when students are required to do intensive reading or to finish reading the entire book, the graduate student adds, “[he] prefer[s] paper formats” (p.11) because it is simply, as stated by another undergraduate student in the social sciences department, “…easier to memorize things that are in [his] hand and that [he is] physically underlining, highlighting, etc.…” (p.15) In addition to students in social sciences department, those major in the sciences and engineering too prefers printed books over eBook, for paper keep them focused and away from distractions that may arise from computer usage and eBook makes it extremely hard for them to pay careful attention to long passages. Indeed, it is undeniable that the potential advantage of eBooks is the greater flexibility and accessibility of over paper-based texts. However, it is important to evaluate electronic texts as learning tools before recommending or requiring their use as a substitute for print books. All mediums have their place; if one type of medium does not work, the other is there to help provide convenience for the user, and if the other cannot serve the purpose of making one’s life easier, the previous medium may help. Both could be used interchangeably, they are not to replace one another.

It is always important to think about how a book is produced. Printed books go through a set of procedure within the publishing company that slowly adds value to the books. It takes at least three years for one book to be published. Woll (2014) claims that authors need at least 12 months to write his manuscript, and the editing process in which the book is read and reviewed for acceptability, edited, designed, and approved need at least another 12 months. These procedures are important and are obliged in the process of a book production. Certainly, however way the book is designed, whether it is in print form or digital form, both constitute an indirect way of communication between the author and the reader. However, the experiences and emotions we receive in return are extremely different. Therefore, printed books will not die. It will continue to flourish alongside electronic books for it is unique and useful in its own ways and cannot be replaced. If printed books ever die, it is only because our culture changed, not because digital was invented.


Chan, L., Felicia, P., Michele, P., Brian, Q., & Jacqueline, W. (2011). UC libraries academic e-book usage survey. (Comparison Report). The University of California:

Rose, E. (2011). The phenomenology of on-screen reading: University students’ lived experience of digitised text.42(3), 515. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01043.x

Tsouderos, T. (2013) Review: ‘S.’ by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst: With ‘S.,’ Dorst and Abrams revel in all the tangible, unifying glories of the old-fashioned printed book. Retrieved September 19, 2024 from

Woll, T., Yates, J., & Raccah, D. (2014). Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press.

Woody, W. D., Daniel, D. B., & Baker, C. A. (2010). E-books or textbooks: Students prefer textbooks. Computers & Education, 55(3), 945-948. doi:




Redefining Metaphors: The Porous Publishing House

By Holly Vestad, Simon Fraser University, Fall 2014 Semester.

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner — English Proverb

Hugh McGuire, on his blog post “Sifting Through All These Books,” simply yet poignantly writes, “[t]here sure are a lot of books” (2014). The statistics are staggering: in 2009, 288,000 books were published through a publisher, and 764,000 books were self-published (McGuire 2014). If one was to glance at these numbers, one might assume that the publishing industry is healthy. But the reality is that this supply far surpasses the demand for books in North America. The book market is ominously saturated, and when this saturation is met with the digital distractions that take up much of today’s consumer’s time (like social media, Netflix, the “mediasphere” [Régis Debray qtd. in Nunberg, 1997], for example), it leads to many, often bleak, conversations about the future of the printed book. But I agree with Geoffrey Nunberg when he states, in his introduction to The Future of the Book, soon the talk of the end of the book will become “as dated and quaint as most of the other forecasts of this type… [that] photography will kill painting, movies will kill the theatre, television will kill movies, and so on” (1997). The reality is that there are different reading environments and different mediums that suit these environments. Print books will always have a place in culture so long as publishers adapt to the demand of culture. The answer to keeping publishers relevant in today’s market is twofold. Firstly, publishers must provide more rich media content online for consumers to search and access. Secondly, publishers must invest in establishing brand loyalty and creating or finding a preexisting “tribe” that is loyal, forgiving and emotionally invested in the brand they identify with. This will increase awareness and desire for print books. Books need to be viewed not as the core and base structure of the publishing industry, but as a structure with porous edges (Lloyd 2008, 1). The same must be true, I argue, for publishing houses; publishing houses must have porous edges and transcend the traditional roles of publishing, by evolving into multimedia content generators and marketing-focused businesses that cater to demand.

Multimedia Content Online: Keep the Consumer Coming Back By Staying Relevant with Today’s Demands

The book must be viewed as more than just content between two covers (Lloyd 2008, 2). Consumers are turning into prosumers, the prosumer’s attention economy is shrinking and digital content is a powerful force (Ibid., 1). In terms of digital content, downloading content has become irrelevant; it is access and search to content that is key for digital media (Lloyd 2008 and Hodgkin 2007). Search and access can be key for print books too. Publisher’s websites need to become avenues of exploration and seemingly unlimited amounts of rich multimedia content for consumers. As Sara Lloyd argues, “publishers have been slow to harness web techniques to promote and sell books, both in print and online, and in digital formats” (2008, 8). She suggests “seeding sample chapters, excerpts, video author interviews, links to media coverage, scheduled author appearances” (Ibid.) and other things of the like. Rather than having a website dedicated to the sale of books, a publishing house’s website must be a social space where consumers can interact, access and search various information and multimedia. The website must encourage an online community around the publishing house. With the shrinking attention economy, providing information that’s rich to the senses and that is apart from the book itself will keep consumers coming back. In the long run, this will promote the sale of books. This is an example of a “porous” publishing house transcending the traditional concept of gatekeeper and distributor; the metaphor must include multimedia content generator. This understanding of a publishing house adapts to the current demands of culture.

Marketing and Public Relations: Emotionality and Ideology 

The second, and most important, aspect of the porous publishing house is its public relations. As mentioned before, the best customer is one who is loyal, forgiving and emotionally invested in the product or brand they identify with. This is how Scott Goodson (2011) defines Apple’s customers. Even when Apple’s new software for the iPhone 4S was draining battery life and it took the company weeks to acknowledge the issue, the loyal customers stood by, patient and forgiving. It is the late Steve Jobs that has contributed to this loyalty (Goodson 2011). Jobs created an emotional connection with his customers by showing an emotional investment towards the products Apple was designing; in other words, he provided a human face and emotion his customers could relate to. Goodson believes other companies can achieve this too, by firstly building a relationship with the consumer. This idea can relate directly to Lloyd’s suggestion of producing multimedia content; the publisher should establish an online personality that people can relate and identify with. A section on the website for the publisher’s blog, for example, would be an excellent aid in building a community; interviews with the publisher or blog posts could express his or her excitement towards the books in the upcoming season. Providing a charismatic face behind the publishing house will assist in brand loyalty.

The most important aspect to brand loyalty is “movement marketing. You have to stop telling people about what your company makes, and instead think about what you believe in. And what you believe in has to touch a nerve with your target market” (Goodson 2011). In other words, companies should focus more on their ideology and less on selling the product, for the latter will follow once the former is developed. This, again, can be expressed through the multimedia content posted to the publishing house’s website; posts must be relevant and time-sensitive to current events and issues in the industry, and the website should link to other companies that share similar values. To ensure the consumer can begin to identify with the publishing house, the mission statement and ideology of the publishing house must be clear when he or she is browsing the website. Strong brand loyalty means

people won’t go elsewhere, even where there’s lower prices — it

keeps revenues high and retains market shares. You can see why

brand loyalty is a priority for any business. If you want brand loyalty,

figure out how you can connect with your customers and start a

movement that you believe in. The rest will certainly follow (Goodson


Marketing and Public Relations: Your Loyal Tribe

Roger Dooley (2012) has a different perspective on why Apple is so successful: they defined an enemy. He agrees that there are many things that contribute to Apple’s success, including the product design, originality and creative marketing. But their definition of PC users as their enemy is often something that goes unnoticed, yet is a big component to their marketing success. Dooley acknowledges that many start up companies attack their competitors, but Apple’s approach was different in that they “attacked the PC users themselves, and drew a sharp distinction between Mac users and everyone else.” What they were in fact doing was creating a “social identity of Mac owners” (Dooley 2012). At the same time Mac was implementing this marketing genius, Henri Tajfel and John Turner were developing the social identity theory, a theory which states “your self image is defined in part by the social group or groups you consider yourself to be part of” (qtd. in Dooley 2012).  Apple was turning a brand into a cult by using a key principle in the social identity theory: “it is ridiculously simple to divide people into groups and create a rivalry” (Dooley 2012). Apple divided users by imposing an “us or them” ideology, an ideology that the social identity theory suggests is relatively easy to create. Tajfel and Turner’s experiments showed that, regardless of the minute ways in which groups were created, “members of each group became increasingly loyal to their own group and discriminated against the members of the other group” (Ibid.). It was in this way Apple so successfully created the cult of Mac users: through rivalry to PC users.

Seth Godin (2008) stresses the need for companies to create or find preexisting tribes. Tribe management holds the belief that “what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies… build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story and something to talk about” (Godin 2008). Apple successfully created a tribe of its own through the social identity theory and through defining its enemy. People were quick to respond and quick to grow their loyalty to a company that provided a sense of community.

The publishing industry is in fertile ground to define an enemy. Amazon and self-publishing have emerged as powerful forces that are inherent enemies to the publishing model. Guy Kawasaki, author, investor and businessman, stated “I think it’s a great time for writers because everyone can publish a book, more or less. But now you don’t rely on five publishing houses in New York to see success. So the democratization of publishing is good in that sense” (qtd. in Pozin 2014). I argue that self-publishing is not democratizing the publishing industry, but rather providing an avenue for monopolization by Amazon. The more that authors self-publish through Amazon’s service, the more power they’re giving to the company; “[t]he fear is that Amazon could end up doing to independent authors the same thing it has done to publishers — make them reliant on a system and then use its leverage to negotiate relentlessly” (Abbruzzese and Nelson 2014). Authors are being misled into believing that Amazon has made the publishing industry more accessible: perhaps it may appear that way now, but in reality the success rates of self-published books are few, and for those self-published books that are successful, it only provides Amazon with more fuel. The battle between Amazon and Hachette is a poignant example of the manipulation of power Amazon can exert within the industry.

Publishing houses can work to create or find a preexisting tribe around the traditionally published book and around their own books by reaffirming their ideology and defining their enemy. By providing rich multimedia content on their website, publishing houses are staying relevant to their time and encouraging traffic, and in the long run, building a community. This community will provide avenues of exploration and discoverability, and once loyalty grows, the community will then buy books because of their loyalty. Although Amazon is a powerful tool of discoverability for consumers, consumers are incorrect in thinking this is the only means of discovering books. If the latter belief holds true, then publishers and other retailers are not doing a good enough job in providing other avenues of discovery for consumers. 49th Shelf and are good examples on how to discover new material. Although they don’t sell books, they can lead the consumer to the publisher or retailer who does. If that loyalty is there, and Goodson is correct, the price should not matter.

Understanding the Future of Print Books by Redefining the Role of the Publishing House

The future of the book is defined by a new understanding of the publishing house. No longer gatekeeper and distributor, the publishing house must become a multimedia content generator and a marketing specialist, alongside traditional roles: such is the demand of culture. Publishing houses must define their tribe and their enemy. This porous metaphor allows the industry to be affected by the demands of culture and the demands of the publishing house’s tribe. This will be pivotal to the future of print culture. It has never been technology to shape the outcome of books, but rather the culture (Hesse 1997). If publishing houses become porous to the demands of culture, the demands of culture will shape the outcome of print books. To demonstrate Nunberg’s opinion on print books, he relates Sartre’s feelings on the significance of his grandfather’s library and the significance of the physicality of the print book:

   the importance of its essential physicality… In this ‘miniscule

sanctuary,’ Sartre transformed himself through what [Régis] Debray

describes as a reverse eucharist into the ‘man-book,’ an inert object

become a kind of gendered being… In its permanence and fixity we,

like Sartre, find an emotional stability, a shelter against the rush of

time and death… [Debray] suggests that the very capacities of digital

media to overcome the material and temporal limits of print must lead

to a kind of fundamentalist reaction to them (Nunberg 1997).

Here too, Nunberg, perhaps a little dramatically, explains culture’s force in determining the outcome of print books. Culture demands that publishing houses become multimedia content generators, and the saturated market of print books demands precise marketing strategies to promote brand loyalty. Until digital media can affect people as print books have affected culture, as Nunberg and Sartre explain, the future is bright.

 Works Cited

Abbruzzese, Jason and Katie Nelson. “How Amazon Brought Publishing to Its Knees — And Why Authors Might Be Next.” Mashable. N.p.30 July 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.  

Dooley. Roger. “Build Loyalty Like Apple: Define Your Enemy.” Forbes. CMO Network, 17 July 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Godin, Seth. “Tribe Management.” Seth Godin. N.p., 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Goodson, Scott. “Is Brand Loyalty the Core to Apple’s Success?” Forbes. CMO Network, 27 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Hesse, Carla. “Books In Time.” The Future of the Book. Ed. Geoffrey Nunberg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. 21-36. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Hodgkin, Adam. “Amazon versus Google for eBooks?” Exact Editions. N.p., 24 Nov. 2007. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Lloyd, Sara. “A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st Century.” The Digitalist. Pan Macmillan, 27 May 2008. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

McGuire, Hugh. “Sifting Through All These Books.” Tools of Change for Publishing. O’Reilly Media, 14 June 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Nunberg, Geoffrey. “Introduction.” The Future of the Book. Ed. Geoffrey Nunberg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Pozin, Ilya. “Guy Kawasaki Reveals the Future of Publishing.” Forbes. Entrepreneurs, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.


Christian Tweedy – Essay 1

Assignment 1

PUB 401

Christian Tweedy

September 24th 2014






My vision for the future of the book takes the digital mode of direction, meaning I believe that eventually one day, more books in a variety of genres but not all books, will be available on your tablet or kindle then in a printed form. The digital form of publishing has the opportunity to outweigh then outlast the traditional, undoubtedly more expensive form of publishing, which for years has vaunted and held its position as the “gatekeeper”, meaning historically for people wanting to get published that they would have to go directly through these people. Nowadays, people are bypassing the gate with self-publishing, using outlets like Kindle Direct and Smash Words to make this happen.


I’m supporting my vision with two concepts in which I feel assist the digital mode of direction, which I’ve decided to jump on board with. These being: the digital distribution platform that has become one of the focal points of the digitization of books in the first place, so think the accessibility of titles through Amazon, Itunes etc. I’ve also included some sales data from the years 2012-2013 for contrast and compare with analysis purposes. My second vision deals with the technology we are accessing and using our digital titles with, think digital files (digital native format) on digital outlets like Amazon for a digital technology like a kindle, tablet or e reader.


The Digital Distribution Platform


The year 2012 was a fantastic year for ebook sales, helping solidify the idea of the digital distribution platform being more accessible and applicable then the traditional publishing >> distribution mode. electronic publishing went through what many fittingly described as a “boom year” due to high revenues that had been boosted from major best sellers like The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey. Jeremy Greenfield from Digital Book World noted that “the eBook format accounted for nearly 23% of publisher net revenues in 2012, up from 17% in 2011, they grew significantly in all the categories that the Association of American Publishers measures and the growth helped buoy all of trade publishing, reaching $7.1 billion on the year.” The boom was propelled by a surge in adult fiction and non-fiction, reaching up to $1.3 billion on the year as well.


Come 2013, and ebook sales began to stagnate and hardcover sales were outselling e books. In mid 2013, The Association of American Publishers reported that eBook sales were up to 4.8% through August to 647.7 million, while sales of hardcover books went up to 11.5% to 778.6 million across the same period. Milliot (2013) writes “EBooks in the three categories that the AAP measures, accounted for 800 million in revenue, down about 5% from last year”. Some cite the slowdown in growth in 2013 is attributable to an unfair comparison to 2012, highly regarded as a “boom year” in electronic publishing and eBook sales due to the wide success of trade paperbacks like Fifty Shades of Grey and Hunger Games, some believe declining dedicated e reader adoption and rising tablet sales to be a cause as well.


Though its sales took a dive in 2013, I strongly believe that ebooks can once again reach the level of commercial sales success that it had seen in 2012. For my vision of digital publishing and distribution to become a reality though, the ebook will need to reach higher sales over the course of a period of a few years then traditional hardcover to really make a lasting impact on peoples perceptions of the publishing world. Rather then just looking at one year of impactful sales and justifying opinion on that, electronic books will need to surpass traditional paperback/hardcover over an extended period of time before we can start completely assuming what is going to happen in the future.  It would be brash otherwise, to take one years worth of sales data and make the assumption that “print sales must be doomed they had a bad year!”, or on the flipside, “wow, ebooks did great this year they’re going to stay at the top!”.


Digital distribution is a large benefactor when analyzing electronic publishing and how it has been able to situate itself in the overall publishing world. Behar (2011) believes that “digital distribution will have an economic impact on traditional publishers whose business models are based on economies of scale and will therefor suffer from a decrease in physical volumes.” Behar here is relating to the issue of digitization, something that is becoming more and more prevalent in publishing. If digital native publishers continue to grow, one can argue that this directly challenges the very nature of the current physical distribution network, which has continued to act as the hallmark of the gatekeeper esque notion of the traditional publishing platform.


The lower cost of eBook distribution has paved the way for online platforms like Kindle Direct, Smash Words and Lulu to circumvent the traditional publishing gatekeepers to make their products directly available to consumers (Li, 2013) an idea which promotes the notion of self publishing, one which is becoming more and more correlated within the realm of electronic publishing due to the lower costs associated with it.  These digital only publishing ventures are creating a specific profile of eBook readers, being able to directly market to the consumer via an online web based platform, have the opportunity to make said consumers turn to this approach, especially given the easabilty of eBooks to E -reader/Kindle who offer direct access to acquiring a vast of titles through 3G networks and WIFI services.


I would be willing to bet that current traditional publishers do not have algorithm tools and methods used by Apple & Amazon that are used to extract a new form of consumer insight, by which they are stepping into the advisory role of an individual bookstore owner, or publisher (Behar, 2011). Sure they may be able to outsource these costs to another company, but the level at which this is being done by Amazon or Apple will not be countered.  These more cost effective data mining techniques allow these companies to gain a better understanding of the needs and wants of their user/customer base, by being able to essentially track reading & spending habits, they can cater interests and niche markets, as a result creating a unique user experience.


The Digital Technology Experience

Further catering to this idea of digital development is the actual production of the electronic book in the digital native format, which is becoming a sought after mode of production in the publishing world. Maxim (2012) writes, “When using file types like MOBI and EPUB, the text can be reshaped and reformatted using different styles and sizes, and are able to include design features like illustrations, animated graphs, media overlays and videos.” Having a purely electronic format as opposed to a print format can enable the publishing house to nullify budget concerns and estimations over print volumes, in the process the concern over leftover stocks would also be of any concern.  As discussed at length in lecture, the publisher is the one who is assuming all the financial and proprietorial risk when acquiring a manuscript.


A over estimation from your sales department can lead to the large concern of an over published book that isn’t selling, left to sit in a warehouse while paying storage fees. I’m thinking producing more in digital native could drastically reduce covering the return costs of leftover books as well as the exuberant printing fees associated with printing and publishing a title. Based on the rising costs associated with traditional print publishing, I believe we will eventually see an overtaking of some  types of books being printed digitally more then printed. There will always be a need for printed publications and books. Examples of these being professional publications like medical journals, litigation titles etc., expensive yes but cater to a specific, niche market who are willing to pay for the titles.


I discussed data mining and giants like Apple & Amazon to directly market to specific consumer bases were utilizing algorithms in my first concept, and how I felt these two things to great success. The same concept I believe can be applied to when we are accessing titles through our e reading technology. The ability to access a plethora of best selling titles via a 3G network or WIFI connection at your fingertips offers up a level of digitized access says volumes about our reliance and infatuation with all things technology. As a result, The proliferation of E readers combined with the accessibility of variety and usability of a digital shopping network have hampered traditional bookstores, who were once the centers of their book shopping universes, having to come directly to them for the books they were wanting, or even to sit back and wait for something to be brought in from an outside location (Shatzkin, 2009).


I simply believe that going forward, the level of access you’re able to tap into with these devices and platforms will greatly surpass the regular print establishment and outlet.  Why get in your car and drive to the bookstore when you can just go on your tablet, order a title off of Amazon and have it delivered to your door in 48 hours with an Amazon prime pass? I don’t think this will eradicate the print market, those numbers I provided earlier speak for themselves, but going forward simply it will be the amount of titles digitized that will transcend print, but not nullifying it completely.




BEA 2013: The E-book Boom Years. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2014, from


E-book Sales Growth Slows in 2013. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from


E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2014, from


Oil in the bookstore ecosystem marshlands; danger ahead – The Shatzkin Files. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from



George Packer: Is Amazon Bad for Books? (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2014, from


The rise of e-reading. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from

Publishing in the news

A list of news items that the Fall 2014 class found interesting during the week of October 7th.


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