MonthNovember 2014

Amazon vs Hachette: Who should win the battle?


Group Projects (Fall 2014)

Publicher: a new model for author crowdfunding
Emily Taylor, Anna Rivera, Chantel Cheng, Nicole Ivory, and Chadwick Joe

“Publicher” is our vision for the future of the book industry. Our platform borrows elements from social media, crowd funding and self publishing to create a unique online content community that benefits authors, readers and publishers. Authors receive sustained financial support from readers, readers interact with their favourite authors and publishers can discover new authors with demonstrated success writing and marketing their work.

Read the Final Report

Behind the Book: The Current State of the Publishing Industry
Christine Coulter, Brett Fabian, Lucy Lau, Oscar Lo, Christian Tweedy, and Emilie Vachon

In imagining the future of the book, this project takes readers (and viewers) straight to the source—approximately 21 years from today’s date. Through the presentation of an original documentary featuring interviews with both readers and industry professionals living and working in the year 2035, the producers of this project provide both commentary on the current state of the book as well as where it will lead should more recent trends in publishing continue. The future that is ultimately painted is one that is not entirely dissimilar to conditions seen today: traditional publishing houses are failing to meet the changing preferences of readers and are therefore, becoming increasingly obsolete in the evolving book market.

Read about the characters and watch the film.

Magna Liber
Catherine Song,Debora Poh, Elenor Qu, Emma Melena Hou, and Emma Li

Magna Liber, the most advanced e-reader, will lead the previous reading experiences to a whole another level. The user and environmental-friendly device will benefit not only the readers by offering new ways of reading, writing, and learning, but also by providing an innovative way of interaction with other users. As well, publishers and authors are given the opportunity for new, profitable business model within the digital age. The era of Magna Liber just has begun!

Read the report and watch the demo.

Ambit Publishing
Alison Roach, Karen La, Caili Bell, Holly Vestad, and Lauren Madsen.

We are presenting a business model for a print publishing house. Bringing global to local, Ambit Publishing produces quality non-fiction, and occasionally fiction, about pertinent and relevant global affairs. For the individual and author that regards him or herself as a citizen of the world,Ambit’s publications create a public that does not discriminate. You can visit our website at

Jessica Sanderson, Jordana Fridman, Mary Ngo, Laura Parkinson,and Lizzy Sun

We are read:public, a textbook subscription service that has created an app for all platforms (smartphones, computers, and tablets). This app offers all textbooks listed each semester at Simon Fraser University and allows students access to all the textbooks they need and extra ones they may want from other courses/departments/subjects in digital form. Students will vote through a referendum, produced by us and the SFSS, to have an increase in their supplementary tuition fees in order to have access to our app.

Read the marketing plan

Amazon vs. Hachette: The threat to public knowledge


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amazon over hachette deborah poh

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Pub 401 Essay 2 Emilie Vachon

pub 401 essay 2 pdf

Christian Tweedy – Assignment 2


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The Future of the Book: The Egg Won’t Come if the Chicken’s Starving

By: Emily Taylor

When discussing books, we often speak of them as objects without origins. Even the question prompt for this essay – “what does the future hold for books?” – focuses on the product itself, rendering their authors and the writing process invisible. There will be no additional books without a future for the people involved in their production, and thus I will determine the imminent role and value books will play in the near future by examining publishers, distributors and authors.

I argue that the mass distribution of books by online stores (Amazon) and physical box stores (Chapters, Walmart) has distanced readers from authors in a way that causes them to consider books to be a physical or digital object or “product”, rather than an enriching (educational, entertaining) experience brought into being by the ideas and skill of a talented individual. As Packer quotes Dennis Johnson, co-owner of Melville House stating: “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value… it’s a widget” (2014). Much like other cultural industries, where the capitalist practice of fetishizing works of art prevails –a film or a song just becomes a torrent file (Lawrence, 2010; Fisher, 2012) – the final “product” of the book and its creation by an author are separated in public consciousness. I predict that if this devaluation continues, it will encourage the current literary environment which massively profits large distributors like Amazon (Packer, 2014) and forces publishers to readjust roles (Gonzales, 2010), but will drastically alter and dichotomize the career path of authors, making it even more difficult than present (Morrison, 2011) for talented individuals to consider writing as a full-time profession.

In order to succeed in this current and near-future environment, authors will need to choose between emphasizing their ideas (content) and brand (author personality), or the community (reader discussion) and experience (participating in building the narrative) associated with their book. This will make the author visible and valuable, thus improving the possibility of sustaining themselves by writing.

Bargain Books in a Bin: How We Got Here

Before distributors were able to benefit from the long-tail business model offered by digital and high-quality on-demand titles, authors largely relied on publishers and independent bookstores to support them in positioning their books and introducing them to readers (Lloyd, 2008). The average book’s physical copies were limited by shelf space and thus seen as a exceptional commodity. Unless it was a best seller, there would only be a few copies of any given title on the shelf (Shatzkin, 2011). A publisher’s brand or a bookstore owner’s passion for an author would add to the value of the experience of finding and purchasing a book, wherein readers would relate to authors and their narratives on a personal level by being individually paired with a press or title (Morrison, 2012). Book signings and tours were more popular – putting the writer and their process on centre stage (Wasinski, 2013). Even if the author was an introverted personality, their publisher could spin that into mystery, allure and theatrics with dedicated marketing (Morrison, 2012).

By stark contrast, when a reader walks into Walmart and sees bins upon bins of the same book, covers marred by massive discount stickers, the allure begins to fade. The book becomes parallel to an apple, toy, or shirt in a bin – a disposable product meant for short-term fulfillment, judged solely on its apparent physical value. Especially with the increase in high-quality at home printing (Mill City Press, 2014), when a consumer looks at a book as an object, they quantify it as a certain amount of ink and paper that would never hold more value than $20.00 at Staples. This massive loss in perceivable value of the physical book paired with the initial low pricing of digital books in an attempt to persuade hesitant readers to “try out” eBooks (Packer, 2014) fostered the current toxic capitalist consciousness that strips books of their production process and creators.

Mass Distributor Haven: Loving the Long Tail

The high-supply, sporadic-demand book sales environment is the perfect habitat for online mass distributors like Amazon and Google. With their infinite “digital shelf”, they can display everything from best-selling million dollar titles to the most obscure hobbyist’s coffee table book. Sales of products other than books unlimited by physical space – toys, clothing, electronics and anything else you can imagine on Amazon – funds any potential losses in storage fees or web hosting costs caused by poorly selling titles. Much like the Netflix of the film industry (Leonard, 2013) and the iTunes (Lawrence, 2010) of the music industry, because Amazon and Google have almost all the books and a vast majority of readers – Amazon “constitutes a third of any major house’s retail sales on a given week, with the growth chart pointing toward fifty per cent” (Packer, 2014) – they can afford to sell items for $0.99 because they’re going to sell billions of them (Wilke, 2014).

As time passes, I predict that mass online distributors will only grow larger. Print on demand will become more advanced with better printing and shipping technology. Suggestions based on user data from social media, search history and past transactions will make discovery (ads) even more targeted, especially for Google which already collects and stores unfathomable amounts of user and search data. I completely expect Amazon to attempt to partner with Facebook given its disadvantage in this respect, which will allow it to leverage social and behavioural data to hone promoted content and target users with books guaranteed to pique their interest. The only way mass online distributors may need to adapt is they will need to provide less proprietary formats, improve encryption and allow sharing across devices (Sloan, 2014) – decreasing piracy and increasing customer satisfaction. They can and will learn from video game providers like Steam in this case, which has seen major success with the long-tail business model (Hunt, 2012).

Independent, small and physical distributors will not reap the same benefits. The only way they will survive is by following the lead of the independent theatre and vinyl music industries (Fox, 2014), wherein they will need to identify a hyper-targeted niche and develop loyalty with an audience through on-the-ground personal interaction. They will need to cater to bibliophiles’ need for “experience”, by providing beautiful ambiances, incredibly knowledgeable and social staff and possibly even expanding into the realm of libraries and coffee shops by providing an environment where customers will want to spend extended periods of time. Chapters has already taken this route by implementing Starbucks, but they may fall victim to the online mass distributors (or convert entirely to Indigo online) because they are ‘too corporate’ and cannot cater to the highly targeted niche audiences (Kitching, 2014) to which I refer.

Whether in a small or large space, an online or physical store, or with a mass-targeted or hyper-niche audience, there will always be a place for books to be sold. The real question we must examine when determining the future of the book is where these distributors will find new books themselves.

Publishers Reposition: Quality Control

Publishers, like distributors, are not destitute either. Although they have shifted away from their roles as marketers, coordinators and leaders of the book making and selling business (Lloyd, 2008), they still play the absolutely fundamental role of ensuring quality and relevance for their audiences. Smaller publishing houses may have perished due to the inability to fund new projects with best sellers (Strauss, 2014) and from having to fork over 60% of profits to Amazon (Packer, 2014), but the concept of a branded institution that chooses which titles are “worth reading” is a lasting need in the literary industry. Much like magazines – Vogue, although moving online is still “Vogue” and holds its loyal readers and advertisers by the purse strings (Halliday, 2013) – publishers will need to hone and build their individual brands in order to attract and maintain their followings. Similarly to the film (studios) and music industries (record labels), their audiences will trust a particular brand to provide a particular standard and flavour of content (Wittkopf, 2014). As the market becomes increasingly flooded with self-published and low-budget content, the role of the publisher as a gatekeeper to quality literature will become more important than ever. The houses that realize this is their fundamental purpose and restructure accordingly will survive by finding authors, editing their works into masterpieces and publishing content that suits their corner of the larger audience of readers.

Author Identity Crisis: Where Do I Fit?

Authors face the most dramatic and potentially drastic change in their role. Authors are not like musicians – not even Stephen King, Margaret Atwood or J.K. Rowling would fill the likes of Rogers Arena every night in hundreds of cities for months on end like Lady Gaga can (GagaDaily, 2014). The content of the book is the entire experience – there is no current “concert” equivalent in literature. Authors are not like actors, who are paid during the production of the film and not afterward, depending on their performances’ success at the box office (Kilhefner, 2014). Although they may not reap royalties from the film itself, they will benefit from interviews, merchandise and future acting gigs (Kilhefner, 2014). Authors cannot follow suit of the film, music or video gaming industries, which have arguably adapted and are finding their place in the long-tail business model (Lawrence, 2010;  Hunt 2012; Sloan, 2013; Schweizer, 2013; Pfanner, 2013; Sommerich, 2014). Authors must fundamentally redefine their place in the market, or risk complete erasure.

Dichotomization of Authors: Popular or Dissent?

I predict that there will be two fates for successful authors, depending on the type of narratives (fiction and non-fiction) that they provide. Both will need to rely on an acute awareness of themselves and their unique personalities, the stories they tell and the audiences they are seeking – a previously minor factor in an author’s career path, now brought to the fore. Without the support of publishers, distributors and salespeople, authors will need to shift their perception of the writing career to include finding a place for one’s own work and standing up for its value by making their brand and writing process visible.

If an author is selling a popular, publicly-relevant and topical narrative, they will need to follow the lead of the video game industry (Hunt, 2012) and pursue crowd funding until they garner enough attention to merit a publisher’s support. I predict that innovators in the publishing industry will develop more crowd funding platforms dedicated specifically to authors’ needs (Pubslush, 2014), wherein they promote “trailers” for their books, build a personal brand and preview bits of content (character profiles, narrative outlines, first chapters) in order to entice readers’ interest enough to fund the rest of their writing process. Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo (Grant, 2014), these platforms would ideally rid of the “all or nothing” approach where all funds must be secured based on the small amount of content they initially provide in order to receive any compensation at all. An author-centric crowd funding platform would allow interested readers to donate immediately and independently of others, thus providing the author with a sustainable stream of funds in exchange for more and more content, until the book is complete and they would receive their final copy at no additional cost. Once an author finished their first (or first few) books and attracted enough attention, a publisher would approach them and assist them in honing their craft and developing their audience in exchange for a portion of the royalties – not unlike the music industry, wherein record labels wait for artists to build an audience and write quality music before stepping in and helping them take their art to the next level.

This process would not be independent of the mass online distributors. In fact, Amazon is currently developing a similar crowd-funding platform that would help self-publishers secure enough funds to complete their books, reports GoodReader (Kozlowski, 2014). Many platforms exist for authors to pursue crowd-funding today (Grant, 2014), but not to the level of targeting and sophistication to which I am referring. This catering-to-the-masses technique would work for already-established authors, authors of genre fiction and any author that cleverly aligns with a viral topic and leverages its existing audience, because they can combat the current “$2.99-$9.99 price standard” (Smith, 2014) with scale. The digital and physical books will be created cheaply and simply for minimum production cost and ease of printing on-demand (Biggs, 2014). Ultimately, authors of popular narratives will increase the visibility and perceived value of their books by emphasizing their content (topical, popular stories) and their brand (author personality and publisher clout), and will succeed by selling many copies for fewer earnings from royalties.

I believe there is also a place in this market for authors with dissenting opinions. Many skeptics predict that the need to cater to the public in order to support oneself as a writer dooms quality, critical thought and alternative prose (Lloyd, 2008; Morrison, 2011).  However, I argue that so long as an author is able to connect with audiences and tell stories that resonate with their niche, they will succeed regardless how alternative their ideas may be. The journey will be longer, more difficult and will involve writing for little to no profit in the beginning – Packer cites a survey that found that “half of all self-published authors make less than five hundred dollars a year” (2014) – but I believe with the right strategy it is still possible.

Authors of dissenting narratives will begin through grassroots writing efforts online such as blogging or using social media to spread awareness for their given cause. They will need to fund themselves through other means during the production of their first digital-only book, and self-publish their title on Amazon or Google without the help of a publisher, to optimize their royalty rate (Bollyut, 2014). Then, by using online forums like social media and offline environments like protests or related events, they will slowly build an audience by having a personality or cause that people can believe in (Morrison, 2014). The controversy and discussion their ideas generates will increase their visibility on social media, through blogger reviews and online news coverage – all of which will rank their book higher in Amazon and Google’s relevance algorithms (Patel, 2014). Once they rank high enough and have developed enough of a following, their higher royalty ratings will hopefully sustain them financially as they develop more content.

The success of this vision depends on several policy changes that many authors are currently fighting for on and offline. The legal battle over the right to determine the cost of one’s own work will need to be won, so that authors can increase the price of their books (Bollyut, 2014). Which, with the new promotion model I am proposing, their audience will understand because they are personally connected with the process of writing and realize that the cause within the book is more valuable than its pages. Alternatively, self-publishing and ecommerce must be easier to conduct natively (without Amazon), in the case of wildly popular authors who can build a large enough draw that they can directly distribute their eBooks.

The physical copies of these books will be limited edition and require aesthetic, collectible and quality design (Catone, 2013) that serves to position the book as a token of one’s support of the ideas within. Owning the physical copy of the book will be a statement of identity and belonging to a community of similarly minded people. Purchasing the title – often directly from the author – is a gesture of support rather than the exchange of money for a commodity object. Consumers will consciously purchase the ‘journey’, not the ‘destination’, but the more beautiful and displayable the final product is, the better. Ultimately, authors with dissenting ideas will need to emphasize and promote the experience of the book and the community surrounding it in order to restore its perceived value and thus earn financial success through smaller amounts with much higher royalties per book through self-publishing or direct distribution.

Implications: Why Does This Matter?

What are the implications of the new literary landscape I have predicted? Both positive and negative change will come for authors, publishers and readers when we emphasize content, brand, experience and community to restore the perceived value of a book. As many optimistic supporters of self-publishing have proclaimed, the democratization of the publishing industry made possible by digital distribution may allow more dissenting ideas a chance at being heard (Anderson, 2004; IDEO, 2010). A recent example is Packer, who proclaims “Amazon has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of writers frustrated with the limits of traditional publishing to have their work read” (2014). Without needing to cater to popular opinion, the brand of a publisher or a current trend, unique narratives have a (digital) platform to stand upon – albeit a small one. Increasing the diversity in pricing in the manners I have explained will possibly reverse the overall devaluation of books, because consumers will begin to associate the price of the book with the quality and rarity of the ideas within, rather than the book as an EPUB file or a bunch of inked paper within some pretty pieces of cardboard. Reconnecting audience and author will hopefully demystify the book, revealing its origins in the valuable knowledge and creativity of a talented individual.

Optimism aside, many negative effects may come of this new author career path. Glaringly – less people will dedicate their lives to writing due to the immense amount of personal effort and sacrifice involved (Morrison, 2011). Like actors and musicians, authors will need to fight to be heard while relying on alternate forms of income before they can make a living writing. The economic divide between successful and failed authors will increase dramatically, because unless they have the means to support themselves financially while still having time to write, they won’t write at all. This may further eliminate the dissenting voices, especially from oppressed peoples. Introverts, technophobes and people lacking knowledge of marketing and audiences – arguably the traits of many great writers past (Schocker, 2013) – will simply not be able to publish work in this market without employing full-time support from an expert, resulting in a massive loss in potential stories told. Ultimately there will be a loss in quality, creative and exceptional content, given fewer authors will have the time, means and motivation to hone their craft.

So to the resounding question: “What can publishers do to change the value perception of their ‘content’, regardless of the ‘container,’ or is that battle already lost?” (Gonzales, 2010), I answer that the fate of books rests largely on the shoulders of authors armed with stories and the drive and funds to tell them. If we are to reverse the devaluation of the book, authors must personally connect with their readers to restore the visibility of themselves and their craft. Books where the author is relatable, personable and believable will flourish and generate profits for their creators. The market will favour authors that can act as personalities or public figures, and introverted or unlikable authors will fall to the wayside. People with a passion for publishing and literature must educate others on the process of writing and the financial reality of the publishing industry’s business model. Books will prevail if authors learn from the music industry by becoming idols that readers will want to get to know and support by buying their work (Shapiro, 2013). They may also learn from film: readers must enjoy the experience of a work (film/book) and feel compelled to share and discuss it with a community of supporters for the title (MPAA, 2014), increasing its experiential value. By making the creator and creative process visible, authors and their supporters will increase the value of the content, brand, experience and community of books and thus ensure their sustainability.


Anderson, C. (2004, October.) The Long Tail. Wired. 12(10).

Biggs, J. (2014, June 17.) What is “below cost” in ebook pricing? Techcrunch.

Bollyut, J. (2014, June 17.) What Apple’s ebook settlement means for the publishing industry. Tech Cheat Sheet.

Bradley, J. (2011, August 25.) Are books dead? City of Tongues.

Catone, J. (2013, January 6.) Why print books will never die. Mashable. 

Fisher, L. (2012, January.) How the music industry managed to screw itself so spectacularly. Simply Zesty.

Foster, M. (2012, October 14.) Are indie authors devaluing books? By ALLi community builder, Melissa Foster. The Alliance of Independent Authors.

Fox, Z. (2014, January 7.) Vinyl record sales increased 32% in 2013. Mashable

GagaDaily. (2014.) Art Rave Tour Sold Out. Ticketmaster

Gonzales, G.L. (2010.) Have publishers helped devalue content? Digital Book World.

Grant, L. (2014, July.) Crowdsourcing sites for authors: The complete list. Self Publishing Review.

Halliday, J. (2013, August 18.) Condé Nast’s style bible is still in Vogue as upmarket publisher sits pretty. The Guardian.

Heldund, J. (2014, July 18.) The myths and realities of being a published author. Inspired by Life and Fiction.

Hunt, S. (2012, November 26.) Beat Hazard grosses $2 million – Sales comparison. Cold Beam Games.

IDEO. (2010.) The Future of the Book. IDEO.

Kalvin, J. (2014, July 11). Watch out! A cliff! How we kept 10,000 readers reading a wonky explainer on the minimum wage. Medium.

Kilhefner, J. (2014.) How do actors get paid while filming? Chron.

Kitching, C. (2014, April 1.) Chapters store at John and Richmond to close in May. CP24 News.

Kozlowski, M. (2014, September 23.) Amazon unveils new crowdsourcing program for KDP authors. Good EReader.

Lawrence, R. (2010.) Can the music industry adapt to the digital future? Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Leonard, A. (2013, February 1.) How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets. Salon

Lloyd, S. (2008.) A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century. The Digitalist (Pan MacMillan).

Mill City Press. (2014, September 22.) Digital Book Printing.

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

Morrison, E. (2012, July 30.) Why social media isn’t the magic bullet for self epublished authors. The Guardian.

MPAA. (2014.) Theatrical market statistics. Motion Picture Association of America.

Packer, G. (2014, February 17.) Cheap words. The New Yorker.

Patel, N. (2014, January 31.) How social signals impact search engine rankings. Quicksprout.

Pfanner, E. (2013, February 27.) Music industry sales rise, and digital revenue gets the credit. New York Times. (2014.)

Schocker, L. (2013, August 13). 16 Outrageously successful introverts. Huffington Post.

Schweizer, K. (2013, February 26.) Music industry grows first time in a decade on digital Adele. Bloomberg News.

Shapiro, L. (2013, December 9.) The state of the digital music industry 2014: An insider’s view. The Jerusalem Post.

Shatzkin, M. (2011, July 24.) Publishing is living in a world not of its own making. The Idea Logical Company.

Sherwin, A. (2013, February 26.) Music industry on the road to recovery as it records growth for first time in 15 years. The Independent.

Sloan, Paul. (2013, February 26.) Maybe there’s hope for the music industry yet. CNET.

Smith, D.W. (2014, June 18.) Killing the top ten sacred cows of indie-publishing: #9 You must sell your books cheaply. Dean Wesley Smith blog.

Sommerich, P. (2014, April.) Worldwide record industry is adapting to digital says IFPI. Classical Music Magazine.

Strauss, V. (2014, April 15.) Another small press horror story: Silver publishing is gone. Writer Beware Blog.

Wasinski, N. (2013, August 22.) Author book tours aren’t what they used to be. Sun Times.

Wilke, L.D. (2014, July 29.) Free books: Marketing genius or devaluation of writers Huffington Post.

Wittkopf, K. (2014, September 18.) Personal interview about her position as Project Manager at 604 Records in Vancouver.

Typography Resources

A vision for the future of the book

Catherine, Eun Kyung, Song


Growing up, my brother and I always appreciated our mother reading countless storybooks from “Anne of Green Gables” to “The Life of Thomas Edison” at bedtime. There were hundreds of books in our living room, which made packing difficult for our family when we had to move to another place. When I visited my uncle’s place last year, he was using an ipad to read to my five year-old cousin. The sight of my uncle reading brought back happy memories of my childhood. At the same time, this made me reflect on how much our society has changed in the last several decades.

In the last twenty years, people’s reading behaviors have changed along with a rapid development of technologies. In addition to the traditional paperback and hardcover versions, digital electronic books have come onto the scene and paper books are in danger of being completely displaced from the market. In turn, digital electronic books are not only transforming the reading environment, but also the business model of vendors in the bookselling field. However, it may be premature to assume that the future will see an end to the paper-based book (Nunberg, 1996).

Devices and Reading Experiences

Recently, Google developed the Google Glass and Apple launched iwatch last week. Some people predict that these wearable devices will be the preferred way for people to engage in reading books. However, I would argue that neither of these would replace books. In the next ten years, people will mainly listen to recordings of books instead of reading the books themselves. Hence, we will have gone from oral storytelling to aural storytelling.

According to a new survey by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group (Sporkin, 2014), publishers made more money from digital book sales than sales from brick-and-mortar bookstores for the first time in 2013. In fact, publishers had predicted this tipping point for a long time. However, this shift in sales focus is not all bad news since vendors were able to balance the losses from paper book sales with increased profits from digital book sales. Hence, from a sales perspective, it can be said that e-books are just as profitable for publishers (Roose, 2014). Still, there is some bad news in that the e-book market is changing. Increasingly, when people read e-books, they are doing it on existing tablets and smartphones instead of using standalone e-reading devices (Abrams, 2014)

People now realize that once they buy a book, they own their personal edition of that story and, with the exception of breaking copyright laws; they are free to do whatever they want with their book copy. There are no limitations to what they can do with it or to it. There are no licenses (though early print publishers futilely tried to force this issue with some of their titles), and no terms and conditions that must be followed on how we use the book. In this way, keeping a book does not require any legal agreement (Losowsky, 2013).

As readers use multiple devices interactively, software matters. More specifically, if a user has a PDF file of a book on her laptop and she wishes to read a copy of the book file on her iphone, the transfer of the book file to the iphone may not go smoothly due to an incompatibility between the laptop software and the relevant iphone application. However, this limitation should not be a cause for worry because companies developing communications and computer technology will certainly take care of these glitches in the future.

Among other electronic devices, the smart future reading device might be “paper”. For instance, when a person is reading a long chapter in a book, it may be much easier for him to refer back to the earlier pages of the chapter if he physically has all the paper sheets of the chapter in front of him. Conversely, if one wants to do the same thing with an electronic version of the chapter, it would certainly be extremely awkward and difficult to go back to an earlier page of the chapter to review or refresh one’s memory. Furthermore, Anne Mangen, a literacy professor at the University of Stavenger in Norway, argues, “perhaps the tactility and physical permanence of paper yields a different cognitive and emotional experience.” She asserts that this is especially true for “reading that can’t be done in snippets, scanning here and there, but requires sustained attention.” Mangen analyzed how people read on different media and found that people tended to read slowly and somewhat inaccurately on early screens. Although the technology has improved with the introduction of “e-paper” to the point where reading speed and accuracy are no longer issues, the more critical aspects of memory and comprehension have not been studied extensively (Mangen, 2013).

Another limitation is the users’ emotional relationship with digital technology. In particular, in many postsecondary institutions, students are able to access journal articles and books electronically through the schools’ libraries. While this service provides much convenience for students, a limitation is that when students download some reading materials onto their computers, the files do not have numbered pages and sometimes readers are not able to see multiple pages of the resource simultaneously. In other cases, users are unable to decipher the length of the literary source when they start reading it. This causes the reader much mental pain and anguish, as he has no idea about the length of the source and the time it will take him to complete his reading (Oblinger, 2012)

Furthermore, other research suggests possible differences in readers’ mental engagement with paper based and e based reading materials. Mayers (2001) found that students more fully remembered what they had read on paper. Those results were echoed by an experiment that looked specifically at e-books, and another by psychologist Erik Wästlund (2007) at Sweden’s Karlstad University, who found that students learned better when reading from paper.

Business Model

As readers’ behaviors change, publishers need to respond to the shift by formulating and implementing new business models. Today, fewer people use e-book devices to read literary sources and many will use their existing devices to fulfill their reading pleasures! Essentially, readers will use their smartphones or tablets to read books because readers prefer carrying fewer devices if they can. However, a major downside of using those devices is they are prone to push notifications, which can be distracting. As a result, the software one uses matters.

Next, Ruppel (2010) argues the contextual upsell will be a business model to watch that allows e-book publishers to interact with their customers in new ways. Imagine the scenario where customers are trying to learn statistics and they get stuck on a particular formula. They ask friends, but no one can explain it well. They then click a help button that guides them to the publisher site where they can download relevant tutorials about specific formulas for $2.99. They download the one they need and get a new learning tool that helps them progress and move forward in their class. Then, taking into account the hundreds of thousands of students who share similar learning gaps and who will purchase through the book (“in-book app purchase”), one sees that it eventually becomes a very lucrative marketing opportunity.

In addition, publishers will become more important. In spite of the hype around self-publishing via the web, publishers will play a greater role in an e-book business. Since commodity content is available free everywhere, top quality vetted and edited content – which takes meticulous work from expert staff, will be at a premium (Ruppel, 2010). For example, at McGraw-Hill, production of the average technical reference book engages teams of editors, copy editors, proofreaders and designers. In the digital world, the role of publishers will expand as new technologies provide an even greater user learning experience.

Furthermore, with skyrocketing amounts of content being served on the web, customers will seek and pay expert content providers that efficiently amass and contextualize information for them, providing highly accurate and specific search options. Indeed, publishers with expertise and resources in these and other emerging areas will be the ones that write the new rules of e-book publishing.

Eventually, many publishers will become service organizations. They will offer integrated services from content to interactive reader tools like one-on-one online chatting that is directly linked to authors, and extending to fulfill the needs of the readers.

As users are exposed to increasingly sophisticated and interactive online content, publishers should be able to provide more added values. This means the revenue it produces grows, while the online business becomes more exclusive and profitable (see Figure 1). This involves moving from static/dynamic content and smart tools to integrated workflow solutions. Static content is the simplest executable material that consists of ‘traditional’ online reference materials like encyclopedia entries on various broad subjects, where the Internet functions as a ‘super library’. Dynamic, multimedia online content is usually hyperlinked, navigable and ‘smart’, requiring live feeds and constant updating. Smart tools can include compliance and workflow tools, with integrated reference content. The richest and most executable content provides the greatest value for readers and consists of integrated workflow solutions. For instance, business books are equipped with software and content that is fully integrated, providing seamless workflow and business solutions (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009).

<Figure 1: The added value of increasingly rich online content>

In addition, educational institutions frequently require the creation of the teaching resources they use. They also require continuous support from providers to ensure that the learning process stays creative. In this regard, gamification, which involves adding elements from games to help students learn core concepts in academic subjects ranging from history to mathematics, will be an important factor in product development for educational publishers in the future (Schilling, 2013).

Next, the publishers’ changing roles from content to service providers must enhance their organizational cooperation and improve synergy. In order for their roles to become a reality, communication amongst people in various departments will be important. This includes bridging the gap between sales, marketing, content providers, and the editing departments in an iterative process to have a “cook to order” production. In this way, the risk of creating titles that do not sell well is avoided. Still, the entire process demands an agile publication process and a visionary IT infrastructure that creates an overview of the process and a strong connection between customer needs and the publishing process (Schilling, 2013).

Role of Publishers

As the market progresses from the traditional print model with an integrated value chain to the new online model, the value chain becomes disjointed and the value of pure reference content is weakened (see Figure 2). Historically, the print model epitomized a domain where important segments of the value chain were ‘owned’ by publishers of paper-based products. Their established brands not only provided competitive advantage, but also brand value derived from quality content and packaging. Since the value chain of the online model is discombobulated, partnerships and alliances between publishers and technology service providers are important to reach the market successfully. As the information provided has become increasingly rich and executable, pure content and packaging is losing its value. Consequently, navigation, analysis and execution have become the highest value-added areas that have emerged as branded segments.

<Figure 2: The reduced value of pure reference content in the online value chain>

The future survival or demise of the book will be an issue of communication between readers and the medium. Inevitably, more and more electronic devices will be released over time. However, electronic devices will be unable to completely replace paper books until technology is further developed to mitigate the limiting factors of eyestrain and portability. As technologies change the entire publishing industry, readers’ experiences will be greatly affected. If past experience with technology development and application is any indication, the trajectory looks to be moving in the positive direction. More specifically, technology should move forward to make it easier and more convenient for people to read digital books. Furthermore, along with this transformation, publishers’ roles as service providers will become more important as consumers become more demanding of their digital reading experiences. Consequently, publishers will have to become more creative when it comes to producing and marketing and they will need to provide diverse resources online and offline to attract readers.


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Click to access the-future-of-B2B-publishing.pdf

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