The publishing industry has undergone multiple dramatic changes in the last couple of decades. Technological changes have affected every aspect of publishing; from the writing process, to the way publishing houses are structured, to the way actual books are produced, marketed and sold. The Internet has been a large contributor to some of these changes, so much so that some are questioning the future of the book (Morrison, 2011). The changes created by new technologies are not limited to the publishing industry. In fact, most industries have in some way been impacted by the changing technological world, both in good and bad ways. One such industry has been the travel and tourism industry. Practically every aspect of traveling has adapted to a new technological environment, including the meaning of travel itself. In this paper I want to compare the changes that have occurred in the travel industry to those of the publishing industry. There are many similarities between the two, but in particular I want to focus on how technological advancements have increased the accessibility and the availability of books and travel as well as how the Internet has changed the the role of the consumer.
The 20th century has been marked by machinery that makes things easier to produce, faster to make, and more efficient to use. In the publishing world, printing presses are continuously improving so that a larger volume of books can be printed at a lower cost. The number of books in the world has dramatically increased due to new methods used for printing, such as photocomposition and offset printing, creating massive amounts of books at a price that is more accessible to readers (Tucker & Unwin & Unwin, n.d.). More currently the Internet has been able to not only decrease the costs of books themselves. All of this makes books more widely available to people who at one point were unable to afford books.
When it comes to traveling, many of the same innovative principles that led to more people traveling apply. First, there are the many varied forms of transportation now available to people. Cars are becoming faster all the time and there are high speed trains in certain parts of the world, reducing the time it takes to travel. Trains and steam powered ships were an especially important development in tourism at the end of the 19th century, enabling more comfortable travel for a longer distance (Walton, 2015). Most importantly in this case are the changes brought about by air travel. At one point it was impossible for most people to take a vacation on the other side of the world because of the heavy costs involved, both monetary and in terms of time. Only the wealthy could truly afford such journeys. However, through the use of more advanced material such as carbon fiber, airplanes have become much lighter, using less fuel and able to carry a much larger number of passengers (Seven ways technology…, 2015). Consequently, traveling around the world has become more affordable to the average person. Of course, travel prices are constantly on the rise, for both publishing and even more so for travel (McGee, 2013), but in general terms comparing to prices of a century ago, they are both more widely available and accessible due to technological developments.
The role of the aforementioned average person has also changed. This change is due in large part to the opportunities now available through the Internet. When it comes to both publishing and travel, consumers now have more autonomy and power. One of the ways this can be seen is through cell phones. Many people in North America no longer have to rely on maps and routes created by different travel corporations. Using apps like Google Maps, or Yelp, individuals can make instant decisions about where to go in a new city or what to do/eat/drink/try (McGee, 2013). Individuals have more deciding power. Similarly, in publishing, with a phone reading has become a different experience. There are more options now for how people read, what they read, and when they read. Buying books online is much easier than it used to be, which means readers are not restricted to going to a physical bookstore to procure a book.
More important is the way online websites have allowed people to become more engaged and less reliant on the industry corporations to provide what they need. By this, I mean using different social media to discuss, comment, and review both books and travel experiences. For example, Goodreads is a website that allows users to find new books based on others’ recommendations and reviews (About Goodreads, n.d.). Social media has enabled readers to become more engaged with the writing process either through following an author on social media platforms or by engaging in the writing process itself. Such was the case with Business Model Generation (http://businessmodelgeneration.com/book).
In the travel world, there are also plenty of websites – Yelp, TripAdvisor – that provide consumer generated content on everything related to travel, including accommodations, attractions, shopping, nightlife, etc. (Gretzel & Xiang, 2010). Gretzel and Xiang conducted a study that shows that people are turning more and more towards social media for answers to travel questions (2010). Trip planning happens through Google searches and travel websites. From personal experience, I know people who pick hikes based on other people’s Instagram photos. It becomes a more personalized experience with people sharing and creating that tends to somewhat ignore traditional travel marketing. Social media, in this case, creates a more collaborative environment for people to share their travel experiences with others without having to rely on the actual industry to provide all of the necessary information.
Finally the role of the consumer has changed by becoming more independent. Travelers are able to plan most of their trips online without having to go through an intermediary, such as a travel agency. There are websites, like Expedia.ca, that are dedicated to providing customers with multiple options for booking flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. (McGee, 2013). This has dramatically changed the role of the travel agency. Although travel agents are less numerous now than they have been before, they are still a large part of the travel industry (Cook, 2015). Nevertheless, travelers can book flights online without having to rely on others to do it for them. This is reminiscent of self-publishing, where the author no longer has to go to a publishing house in order to make their work available to others. Writers no longer have to depend on publishing houses becoming interested in their work, instead they rely more on themselves and use the Internet to their advantage.
Publishing and travel have, in a small way, influenced each other. As steam powered passenger trains started traveling longer distances, cheaper books were produced for people to pass the time while on board (Tucker et al., n.d.). This historical fact shows how interconnected the changes in industries can be due to technological advancements. Besides this particular influence, both the travel and the publishing industries have undergone very similar technological changes in the past century. Both industries have advanced to accommodate a large number of people through more efficient machinery. And thanks to the Internet both have had to adapt to a reader/traveler that is more engaged and self-reliant than ever before.
About Goodreads. (n.d.). Goodreads. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/about/us
Cook, M. (2015). Travel agents: We’re still flying high: A decade after ‘devastating’ change, industry survives. Arkansas Business, 32(9). Retrieved from https://global-factiva-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/ga/default.aspx
Gretzel, U. & Xiang, Z. (2010). Role of social media in online travel information search. Tourism Management, 31(2), 179-188. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2009.02.016
McGee, B. (2013, April 24). 10 biggest changes in travel in the past 10 years. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/mcgee/2013/04/24/10-biggest-changes-in-travel-in-the-past-10-years/2107309/
Morrison, E. (2011, August 22). Are books dead, and can authors survive? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison
Seven ways technology is changing the travel industry. (2015, January 27). Retrieved from https://medium.com/@WTTC/seven-ways-technology-is-changing-the-travel-industry-85cff79c1ece
Tucker, D. H. & Unwin, G. & Unwin, P. S. (n.d.). History of publishing. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://academic.eb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/EBchecked/topic/482597/history-of-publishing/
Walton, J. K. (2015). Tourism. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/tourism