Wither the PDF

In an age of unprecedented document sharing, the Portable Document Format, better known as the PDF, is ubiquitous. Though there are no official statistics, a Google search for PDF formatted documents in 2007 returned 236 million documents compared to 37 million Microsoft Word documents (1), and the number can only have grown since then. The reasons for its popularity seem clear. It is described by creator Adobe as being “used to present and exchange documents reliably, independent of software, hardware, or operating system”. It offers document control, visual consistency across screen and print and ease of sharing. However, it is also limiting and fails to maximise on the potential of digital documents, particularly in the realm of scholarly publishing. When considering the nature of digital reading and the evolving nature of scholarly work, it is clear that the PDF falls short of enabling users to get the most out of the digital realm. Instead, researchers should look to other formats like HTML to create dynamic, interactive documents that allow both authors and readers to interact with a text in any way they see fit.

The PDF was originally conceived by Adobe co-founder John Warnock in 1991 when he launched the Camelot Project. His vision was to solve the issue of universal communication and formatting of printed information. At the time, fax machines were the most advanced method of sharing documents quickly, but were limited by poor quality, high communication bandwidth and being device specific. More generally, digital formatting and layout were considered complicated (2). The solution Warnock devised was built on PostScript, a device-independent page description language that had been widely adopted as a standard for application outputs. PostScript was limited, though, by requiring a powerful computer to process it and a PostScript capable printer. To circumvent these, Warnock proposed a new language, a subset to PostScript, that did not require a complete PostScript parser to process. Then, with a new version of the PostScript interpreter, any PostScript file could be converted to the new format, that included a structure storage system, creating a self-contained file that could be sent anywhere and viewed or printed exactly as intended (2) (3). Warnock predicted that this new format would work even on small machines, enabling widespread adoption, as well as allowing distribution of documents via email, text searching capabilities and improved document archiving. This concept was revolutionary in a time when the web was in its infancy, exchanging ideas was limited to emails, bulletin boards and chatrooms, and documents were restricted by incompatible platforms and software versions (4).

From this vision, the PDF was created. PDF 1.0 was released in 1993, and early feature additions included password security, internal and external linking, interactive elements like checkboxes and digital signatures and improved colour and web-capture features (5). In the decades since, these features have been developed and strengthened, with other options like redaction and some minor editing tools added. It is undeniably one of, if not the most commonly used format in document management today, fulfilling Warnock’s dream of a device- and OS-neutral format that preserves a document as originally intended. His predictions around emailing documents and archiving have also proved accurate. Its importance was perhaps most clearly recognised in 2008 when the format became an ISO standard, ensuring its survival as an easily available format for stakeholders that include governments and multinational corporations (6). It also affirmed that future PDF viewing software will be backwards compatible, meaning they can open earlier PDF versions, again ensuring the long term usefulness of the format for archiving (7).

However, the very nature of the format that made it so revolutionary when it was first conceived is what makes it unsuited to the digital age we now find ourselves in. Where the PDF was designed to improve viewing and printing, technology has evolved to a point where a document’s uses and its readers’ needs go far beyond that. Historically, readers have not been able to contribute to published information, but production is no longer done in isolation, and publishing is no longer a one-way process (8). Editing, reviewing, commenting, annotating, sharing and collaborating are all possible in ways that could not have been accounted for in the original development of the PDF, and it has not effectively adapted to new demands. What staticity and near universal compatibility do offer is a powerful tool for print production, and with the related PDF/A format a reliable option for archiving digital-born documents (9), but for nearly any mode of communication beyond that the PDF is restrictive and stifling.

Before considering new demands, though, it is important to note that one half of the PDF’s most basic raisons d’etre – improved viewing – has suffered over time. Screen technology has evolved as quickly as other digital technologies, particularly with the rise of mobile, tablets and touchscreens. With their fixed format and proportions, PDFs are not mobile responsive, making them extremely difficult to read on handheld devices. As early as 2001, Jakob Nielsen, a user experience expert, was lamenting that PDFs only served to replicate the look of a printed page, which didn’t work for display in a browser window, and that navigation was difficult, resulting in a poor user experience (10). Since then, digital reading has moved even further from the printed page and is fast becoming the predominant mode of reading. This requires specifically designed tools and reading environments that enable new forms of publishing information that go beyond replicating a traditional paper page on-screen (11). In addition to this, an often overlooked form of reading is also affected by the limited visual focus of PDFs – they have widely been found to be inaccessible for readers with disabilities who rely on screen readers, requiring extra software, and even with that offering inconsistent results (1).

Along with the visual presentation of text, digital reading involves a level of interaction and co-creation of documents that has not previously been possible with print. Looking at the tools users might require, PDF does offer some, in limited forms. Commenting and highlighting are possible, but they exist in isolation and are not seen by anyone unless the document is sent directly to them, and this process can’t be carried out by multiple authors concurrently. Moving from reading to production, editing and workflow functions are limited to paid versions of the Adobe Acrobat software suite, and still fail to match the collaborative nature of digital work in the same way that digital first platforms like Google Docs do. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that PDF is an open format, and several tools have been built to try to allow for more varied and productive uses. Simple tools like A.nnotate allow in-browser PDF annotation for individuals and groups, but others like Utopia Docs make a direct connection between static PDFs and the online world. It acts as an alternative PDF viewer, reading the document for what is available within it, then seeking out additional information from publishers or the community to build a more complete, connected picture (12). This kind of tool is significant considering the reality of how much research is currently stored in PDF format, and that any challenge to that dominance is unlikely to see much existing research converted. In this sense, Utopia Docs fits with Willinsky, Garnett and Wong’s vision of researchers and scholarly publishers learning to use PDFs more effectively, rather than seeking a new standard format (13). However while their discussion of how PDFs could be better executed is comprehensive and informative, even they concede that all of their recommendations could equally apply to a PDF successor, and they do not solve all the issues PDFs present.

To continue with considering forms of digital reading, there remains one that the PDF again fails to account for – machine reading. Digital documents are increasingly being read by programs, not people, meaning they need to be structured appropriately for that purpose (14). While PDFs do contain metadata to enable some machine reading, their design deliberately retains as little information as possible to reduce the file size, prioritising the information necessary for accurate display. This makes it difficult to extract and can lead to inconsistencies (13). Further, while viewing a PDF is simple, uses beyond that can be easily limited through digital rights management (DRM). As research methods have developed alongside new technologies, scholars are looking to use text and data mining to form new insights, but many publishers are employing DRM to limit these activities. While researchers expect to be able to interact with texts and data beyond simple (human) reading and they have the capacity to do so (15), many copyright holders claim that this breaches their rights. It took a supreme court ruling in the UK to confirm that these activities do not violate copyright (16), but this applies only to their jurisdiction and researchers internationally are still in uncertain territory. While the challenges to text and data mining go beyond the format that the information is stored in, PDFs simple control of a document’s uses that can affect even the smallest forays into text analysis. Further, if PDF is being used for archiving, any DRM measures can have an impact on future accessibility of research, although PDF/A forbids encryption (17).

Another limitation is that once downloaded, a PDF disappears from view in the network, and so there is no way to track or measure how it is used. In scholarly publishing specifically, this drastically reduces the possible measures of how research circulates, in particular discounting them from any altmetrics that measure social engagement. In some cases this anonymity has been used to scholars’ advantage in times of need, notably with the recent popularity of SciHub, which uses legitimate credentials to download a PDF of a paywalled journal article, delivers it to whoever requested it free of charge, and stores a copy for future searches. In response to this, publishing consultant Joe Esposito referred to PDFs as “a weapons-grade tool for piracy”, because of the ease of sharing and the few identifying features of any given PDF (18). However, beyond this, Esposito has also pointed out that a PDF journal article dropping out of the networked environment when it is downloaded reduces the measure of its reach to download numbers and citation counts, both of which fail to properly capture the complexity of an article’s impact (19). Without the links and traces that most communications leave online, there is less available data about the use, impact, and visibility of research within the academic community, and beyond it (20). While these data are largely used to complement or predict traditional measures of impact by updating them for the digital age (21), altmetrics also have the potential to foster a system that values public use of research and offers a more level playing field for researchers in developing countries (22). By distributing and circulating research in a closed-off format, the research community is losing valuable data.

After considering the shortcomings of the PDF format, it is important to then consider what alternatives are open to scholars and publishers to continue their work and make the most of the opportunities offered to them by digital technologies. Some suggest reverting to PostScript, the original language that PDF is based on, whose limitations around computing power and printer-compatibility are now all but obsolete. Others recommend plain text formats in some contexts, for storage and data management. Pettifer, McDermott, Marsh, Thorne, Villeger and Attwood (12) offer a detailed comparison of various formats that may serve different needs:

PDF Comparison

However, leaving aside archiving and printing, it seems that the most universal and versatile format is HTML. HTML was invented around the same time as the PDF and its strength lies in its simplicity and flexibility (2). The language was actually first invented for scholarly communication, and offers comprehensive metadata, unlimited linking, simple reference management (23). It also allows for better searching, more simple and cheap tools and plugins, more creativity in formatting, mobile capability, and most importantly, it allows authors and readers to maximise what it means to create and experience a document online. Where a PDF is a terminal format, HTML creates living documents that can evolve and change over time. It also enables all the functions that a PDF limits – searching, text and data mining and reader interaction in the form of annotation, commenting and review. It is also held as the highest standard of accessibility for disabled readers (1). In essence, it enables digital reading in a way that, despite improvements over time, the PDF format is unlikely to ever achieve. It also leaves open the possibility for new and more creative engagement in the future.

Ultimately, the dominance of the PDF looks unlikely to be shaken overnight. It remains a default setting for document management, and does serve as an excellent tool for printing. However, that strength alone speaks to how inadequate the format is in an age where print is less and less relevant as a method of consuming information. It is a relic; a terminal format that once created assumes that what is written will not change, and will be read in isolation. For scholarly publishing, this not only affects the creation of and contributions to research, but limits how that research can be used, and how its influence can be measured. Looking to the future, researchers and publishers should consider all the possibilities of how scholarly work could be used, and that how their readers might want to engage with it. While change may happen slowly, this consideration of the appropriateness of a format, rather than defaulting to the norm, should be the first step in broadening the horizons.

 

References:

1 – Turró, M. R. (2008). Are PDF Documents Accessible?. Information Technology & Libraries, 27(3), 25-43.

2 – King, J. (2004). A Format Design Case Study: PDF. Hypertext ‘04: Proceedings of the fifteenth ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia, 95-97

3 – Fanning, B. (2007). PDF Standards.

4 – Quora.com, How was the PDF format created?

5 – Thomas, K. (1999). Portable Document Format: An Introduction for Programmers.

6 – ISO.org, PDF Format Becomes ISO Standard.

7 – PDFA.org, PDF/A FAQ.

8 – Jones, T. (2012). Why Digital Books Will Become Writable. Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto.

9 – Han, Y. (2015). Beyond TIFF and JPEG2000: PDF/A as an OAIS submission information package container. Library Hi Tech, 33(3), 409 – 423

10 – Nielsen, J. (2001). Avoid PDF For On-Screen Reading.

11 – Pearson, J., Buchanan, G. & Thimbleby, H. (2013). Designing for Digital Reading.

12 – Pettifer, S., McDermott, P., Marsh, J., Thorne, D., Villeger A. & Attwood, T .K. (2011). Ceci n’est pas un Hamburger: Modelling and Representing the Scholarly Article. Learned Publishing, 24, 207–220.

13 – Willinsky, J. Garnett, A. & Wong, A. P. (2012). Refurbishing the Camelot of Scholarship: How to Improve the Digital Contribution of the PDF Research Article. Journal of Electronic Publishing, 15(1)

14 – McCoy, B. (2014). The Inhuman Future of Digital Reading. Journal of Electronic Publishing, 17(1)

15 – Carpenter, T. (2016). Text and Data Mining Are Growing and Publishers Need to Support Their Use – An AAP-PSP Panel Report.

16 – CopyrightUser.org, Text & Data Mining.

17 – DigitalPreservation.gov, PDF/A-1, PDF for Long-term Preservation, Use of PDF 1.4.

18 – Esposito, J. (2016). Sci-Hub and the Four Horsemen of the Internet.

19 – Esposito, J. (2008). Downloads as Failure.

20 – Holmberg, J. H. (2015). Altmetrics for Information Professionals.

21 – Sud, P. & Thelwall, M. (2014). Evaluating Altmetrics.Scientometrics, 98(2), 1131-1143

22 – Alperin, J. P. (2013), Ask not what altmetrics can do for you, but what altmetrics can do for developing countries. Bul. Am. Soc. Info. Sci. Tech., 39: 18–21

23 – Fenner, M. (2011). A very brief history of Scholarly HTML.

Data Doesn’t Decide

 

In Andrew Leonard’s piece this week, he argues that Netflix’s ability to track and analyse consumer viewing habits will increasingly influence their programming choices, and that this reliance on data will detrimentally affect content, resulting in homogeneity and predictably. However he also says “one could argue that Netflix’s strategy is only a slightly more sophisticated version of what’s already been in place for, well, forever. We wouldn’t be seeing teenage vampires or zombies every time we turn on the TV if the money that bankrolls the content creation business hadn’t already decided that’s what we want to see.”

This is an important point. If what we’re concerned about is good content that only appeals to a small audience getting buried or never made, that’s been the reality for TV and movies for a long time. But good content does still exist and find support. If anything, Netflix’s approach could be an improvement because the feedback they are getting is a lot more accurate, and their distribution model isn’t based on mass appeal. In fact, the more niche audiences they can attract the better from their standpoint – not only to bring more people into their system, but to increase the data set they can work with for recommendations and content creation. Leonard rightly asserts that the scale and accuracy of digitally enabled data collection mark a new era of content crafting, but it remains to be seen what impact it will have.

Taking the concept to the wider creative industries, including book publishing, the most important thing to remember is that the data collected is not prescriptive. It doesn’t decide how it is used; people do. It’s also important to remember that there has always been a spectrum of ‘good’ versus ‘not good’ content, which is subjective of course, as well as mass versus niche appeal. A hundred different publishers can have a hundred different acquisition strategies, and so it’s likely they would have a hundred different approaches to audience data, including not using it all. Decision making around content creation has always been informed by data. The important thing for publishers will be to recognise this new form data as one tool among many, and ultimately that they are the ones who decide what direction they go in. For some, that will mean maximising commercial success, for which audience data will be more influential, but others have different goals. Data collection can still serve them in achieving those goals, but it doesn’t spell the end of creativity as we know it. To return to the TV industry, in the two years since this article was written, we have arguably moved further into a golden age of production, with Netflix (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, Narcos, Jessica Jones etc.) and even Amazon (Transparent) at the heart of it. If we could see the same boom in books, I hardly think publishers would be complaining.

THE FUTURE OF BOOKS.——The Future of Printed Books

As the article, books seems to be getting intangible. The popularity of new media such as Internet, mobile phones makes me worried about the fate of printed books. I believe books will not disappear in the future.

 

In printed books, words are fixed in the paper. Every time you picked up one book, each page provides the same places and same feeling, which makes people feel comfortable and safe. Therefore, when we read printed books, we have a feeling like that there is a “center” or “root”, and every time when our minds want to enter into this place, printed book makes we return to the land of habitat.

 

When reading in front of a screen, most of us will have a non-practical, not a secure feeling. We do not have the control of computer program, do not understand how it works and people will worry that the virus problems which will immediately destroy the computer. Once we use the computer, we would quickly lose the feeling of “root”, lose the feeling of material place. Printed books can give people a sense of stability. It is also the reason why printed books can play an important role in human culture.

 

Unless there is force majeure such as fire, wind, flood, earthquake or explosion, printed books are unlikely to be destroyed in common situations. However, the risk of security issues in e-books is more than printed books. A common risk factor is the virus. If a man put information in computer or e-book store, he will naturally worry about data loss due to a virus. Then, people will store data in the U disk and other mobile devices in this fear. Even do the backup work, sometimes people still have to worry about data loss or damage. On the one hand, the worry comes from the natural defects of digital technology itself, on the other hand, the worry comes from the lack of “material” feeling in digital technology. So, from this point of view, the usefulness of printed books is more than the usefulness of digital media.

 

Compared with e-book, printed books are the media before the evolution. E-books are the new media which absorb the energy of new technology. The truth is that fleeting and keeping, they are all human need. We should guard against the tendency that feel hyper-vigilant to new media and the pessimistic mood for old media. Compared to printed books, books produced by electronic technology must have disadvantages, also have advantages. But the result will be that in the future, printed books and e-books will satisfy the needs of the human in their own territory.

The digital future of the book could be anything

A hackaton stands for an event that has everything to do with computer programming and software development. Computer programmers, graphic designers, interface designers and project managers meet to collaborate intensively on software projects. The FutureBook hackaton, is an event focusing on the digital future of publishing. The first FutureBook hackaton took place in 2013 in New York and was followed by another one that happened in 2014 in London. The event concluded with picking a winner for the most innovative idea proposed during the event.

This article sums up the concluding points for the first book hack in the UK, and that is: the book is slowly but surely changing, however, it will still remain a book.

The takeover of the digital book has been long feared by the publishing houses. There have been complaints that the demand of ebooks creates additional workload and extra costs for publishing houses. And this is true, they are required to hire or train existing staff new skills, perhaps even more difficult skills that have less to do with editing and proofing, but more to do with coding and tagging text.

Industry professionals have for long predicted that ebook sales will take over print sales,  and that the traditional book will be a rarity. However, this is far from being true in the contemporary book market. Despite the prediction of ebooks taking over the print book, ebooks have seen a fall in the sales numbers. The prediction was that ebooks were going the way of the digital music. Statistics now show that ebook owners are now going back to the traditional print book. Publishers are doing everything they can to increase and promote the traditional book, e.g.: Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.

The FutureBook Hackaton’s conclusion was that the traditional book won’t disappear, however, publishers shouldn’t be reluctant to progress. Publishers should embrace new technologies and take advantage of them (for instance, Blackwell’s is working on a strong digital strategy with 17 developers recruited from outside the publishing industry in order to drive this change), in order to create beautiful products, like Voices, the winner of the FutureBook Hackaton. Voices is a contest for finding the next ‘golden voice’ amongst the general public for audio book narration, like a kind of Britain’s Got Talent for beautiful voices. They won the overall prize of £5,000.

Publishers should embrace and fructify new technologies, not fear them.

The Future of Books: It Doesn’t Have to be Dolphins

According to James Warner, we’re in deep trouble, literarily. Or at least we will be. Fast forward 70-odd years and what was once the domain of Goethe and Shakespeare has been taken over by vampire-obsessed dolphins. It’s a whacky, somewhat exaggerated depiction (we’re probably at least 150 years off from dolphin vampire romps) of the state books are currently in and the direction we’re headed in.

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Hacking the world, or I am become Bot, compiler of words

Reading response by Erik Hanson

Hacking the word” really digs into some of the intersections of storytelling and literature with the emergence of digital and networks. At first glance, I read the title of this piece as “Hacking the world,” which I think could be an alternate title if you stretched the metaphor a bit. I’ll get to how the world/word mixup fits together.

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Netflix the Puppeteer

The amount of data Netflix has access to is overwhelming, but building a picture of the average user does not allow for the intricacies of human interest.

“How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets” was written in 2013 by technology journalist Andrew Leonard. The article addresses the Big Data accumulated by Netflix on the ways in which users interact with the service. Netflix utilised this data to develop a show that they knew would attract a number of viewers, banking on the previous success of the star Kevin Spacey, and the director David Fincher to create House of Cards Forbes attributes this turn towards utilising Big Data to the “new entertainment battlefield” in which competition for users attention is fierce. Additionally, the amount of data they are receiving is only increasing as Netflix is reaching even more countries  changing the way that Netflix appeals to a wide variety of audiences. As Leonard predicted, Netflix did well with creating a show that people would enjoy as much as any program that was traditionally developed. Since this article was written in 2013, a number of original Netflix shows such as Orange is the New Black have done very wel, but are still just one part of the entertainment industry.  

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A Fistful of Data: Franco Moretti and the stuplime experience of big data

In the past few years, the digital humanities have become one of the sexier modes of literary study in the academy. The merging of scientific processes of inquiry and the art of subjective, qualitative study has been embodied in the work of Franco Moretti, professor of English at Stanford University and founder of the Stanford Literary Lab. Moretti is part of the vanguard of the digital humanities, striking forward with equal parts innovative method and charisma. In many ways, the digital humanities have become synonymous with Moretti’s name and his work, which has included Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (2005) and Distant Reading (2013), among others. Moretti’s scientific approach to literature has sparked a discussion on big data and what it means to use quantitative studies in the humanities. His work has involved looking at thousands of titles of literature and analyzing the meta data from those titles; he has analyzed relationships between characters over time, changing title lengths during a constrained period, and has created visualization maps to illustrate his findings. The digital humanities and the use of big data to analyze literature have been critiqued in the academy, but what is our emotional reaction to this big data, as an initial instinct rather than as a slowly formed intellectual opinion? This paper will explore the use of big data in the digital humanities and how this big data results in an emotional response akin to awe and boredom. Our confrontation with big data results in the experience of what Sianne Ngai calls “stuplimity,” a term that will be further defined later, but which explains the complex emotional response to something both sublime and tedious. This response to literature’s big data is not caused by the individual texts themselves, but rather by the enormity of the data as a whole. It also inspires a sense of reverential respect for the individual partaking in the data collection: are digital humanists the new heroes, traversing untravelled frontiers? Finally, I will consider how the collectors and “scientists” of big data are heroes of tedium, uncovering new information about the study of the humanities through means of qualitative formalism.

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The German Ebook Market and the Success of the Skoobe app

According to an interview last year with the managing director of the German Booksellers and Publisher’s Association, Alexander Skipis, “Germany is a nation of readers. As the second largest book industry in the world, the German market functions as a role model for both quality and diversity, and market performance is generally stable. We are eager to maintain and expand this state of affairs.” (Sussman, 2015). While this is coming from someone promoting their own segment of the book market and therefore might be taken with a grain of salt, it is undeniable that Germany is a huge player in the world of books, acquiring a turnover of 9.32 billion Euros last year.

One of the things that really stands out in the German book market is the strength of their print and brick and mortar retail sales. In 2014, physical bookstores still outperformed online retailers in Germany (Sussman). To go hand-in-hand with this, ebook sales have not taken off at all in this part of the world. This essay will explore why Germany has this stagnant ebook market and how one subscription based ebook app took off despite this.

As in North America, ebook sales in Germany have been rising. However, unlike in the US and Canada, they have risen at a very slow and almost reluctant pace. As you can see in the following graph, in 2014 the numbers reached 4.3% of the overall German book market (Sussman, 2015).

German graph

Looking at the overall picture since 2010, one can see that growth was never particularly huge, but has slowed down even more in the past three years. If you compare this to the North American ebook sales numbers, there is a dramatic difference. The graph below illustrates US ebook sales and shows a rise to 20% of the book market by 2014 – in huge contrast to 4% in Germany (Statista).

US graph

A Bloomsberg business article from a number of years ago, when this trend of slow sales in Germany was just manifesting itself, noted a few potential reasons for this (Winter). This article suggested that Germany is set up to support print books but not ebooks and that certain economics play into the slow adoption pattern (Winter). For example, print books are exempt from the full 19% VAT tax, with only 7% being added on to the price set by publishers. For ebooks, this tax is still applied in full (Matting). There have been some moves on the part of cultural ministers in France, Germany, Italy, and Poland to lower this tax, but is hasn’t met much success yet (Adamowski).

Another key factor cited in the Bloomsberg article and elsewhere, is the long held pride in print books that Germany has (Winter). Since the time of Gutenberg, German book printing and publishing has been a thing of high regard and print book sales have reflected this throughout their history. Elements of the current economy such as the VAT tax reflect this value.

Despite how small the ebook segment of the market is, a particular subscription based ebook app has taken off with relative success. At a time when subscription models in North America are under debate, this case study can provide us with some insight into what it would take to have a successful subscription model.

Skoobe 01
This German app is called Skoobe – if you are particularly adept you might notice the name spells “ebooks” backwards. Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck, two publishing media conglomerates, launched the app in 2012. On its website Bertelsmann describes itself as “a media, services, and education company that operates in about 50 countries around the world” (Bertelsmann). Among many other organizations, they own Penguin Random House and the magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr which publishes magazines all over the globe. In 2015, it generated more than 17 billion Euros in revenue and currently employs 117,000 employees (Bertelsmann).

Holtzbrinck is also a huge media group that focuses almost exclusively on publishers. They have brought four well-known publishers with long histories together: Macmillan Publishers, Nature, Springer, and S. Fischer. They describe themselves as “As a media group dedicated to science, education and the wider cause of reading the Holtzbrinck Group aspires to provide first class service to our authors, researchers, academics, educators, librarians and readers” (Holtzbrinck website).

In the publishing industry we often hear people ask why publishers have not taken up the reigns on digital publishing enterprises such as Kobo or Goodreads or something new we cannot even imagine. Skoobe is unique in that it stemmed from the owners of some of the largest publishers in the world. These two media corporations together have a lot of money and experience in the publishing and media world and were able to put that towards their new venture.

 

Skoobe app

They launched Skoobe as a German-language-only service providing subscribers a large library of books for 9.99 Euros per month. You could have five books out at a time and register your app on three devices (Hoffelder). Another key highlight was that you could stream your books online or read offline across multiple devices.

Today, four years later, they have over 150,000 high quality books available, with hundreds of new ones coming online everyday (Skoobe). Last year, Skoobe expanded into Spain and they now have books in German, English, Portuguese, and Spanish (Hoffelder, 2014). In a Buchreport article from 2014, Skoobe reported that its app had already been downloaded over a million times since its launch two years before (“Ins Ursprungsland der Flatrates”). So despite the low rate of ebook sales in the overall German market, Skoobe is claiming good success with its subscription model.

And this is in the midst of intense debate in North America around whether or not the subscription ebook model is sustainable (Klosowski). In our part of the world, subscription services like Kindle Unlimited, Oyster, Scribd, and Bookmate have opened, but with varying success. Oyster and Kindle Unlimited are US only services, Bookmate is focusing its services in Russian, the Ukraine, and Turkey, and all of them work on different platforms and different devices with little consistency.

Last September, Oyster fell and its staff moved over to another company and in July, Scribd reduced the romance titles they were hosting, “due to the high volume at which subscribers presumably read those titles” (Duffer). In other words, this model has been struggling to find it’s footing in North America and causing many people in the publishing world to question its viability. As Ellen Duffer put it in a recent article on subscription models, “This recent movement [Oyster and Scribd] has sparked an increase in doomsday analyses of the subscription ebook model” (2015).

So how is it that Skoobe is finding such success in Europe despite the fact that the German ebook market is far smaller than the one in North America? And what is it that we can learn from Skoobe’s success?

A key downside that is often cited for the North American services, is that they all work on different devices. In other words, there is a need for one service that works across all iOS, android and other e-reader devices. This is what Skoobe provides. There are now even a number of e-reading dedicated devices such as Icarus Illumina that comes with the Skoobe app installed on them. This ease of use across multiple platforms, including Kindle Fire, provides users with an easy-to-use service that is far more accessible than equivalents that only work on one platform.

Furthermore, there is no denying that having a close connection to some of the world’s largest trade publishers through its founders was key. One of the things criticized in North American is that US providers of subscription services do not offer access to the bestsellers and instead have large volumes of books that nobody wants to read (Illian). Additionally, Jason Illian from the Entrepreneur notes how many of the world’s top publishers who produce these bestsellers are just not on board with the subscription services out there, and therefore, services like Oyster and Scribd just cannot get the books people want to read (Illian).

This doesn’t seem to have happened to the same extent in Germany, and the reason for this is that media and publishing companies started Skoobe and they already had a stake in the publishing industry (Duffer). With publishers like Penguin Radom House and the two largest German publishers Bertelsmann SE & CO and George von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group under your wing, you can rather quickly start to bring under contract other presses (Duffer). Skoobe currently hosts titles from more than 1,600 publishers including almost all of the German bestselling titles.

Although I was unable to find any information on the payment system that Skoobe works out with their publishers, Skoobe puts themselves forward as a company in close relationship with publishers and their collaboration with so many across the industry indicates that these partnerships are going well. This kind of collaboration is what is needed in North America.

Chrisitan Damke, the founder of Skoobe was quoted as saying, “Skoobe aims to enlarge the market for major publishers by offering easy ebook access to price-sensitive readers who don’t necessarily want to own the books” (Kozlowski). Skoobe argues that by providing a subscription service, they allow publishers to reach readers who might not normally spend money on a given book, but will read it for free if it is part of a flatrate service. This expands the reach of the book. According to data provided by the company, three-quarters of the books that users read – and enjoy with high satisfaction rates – within Skoobe are ones the readers claim they would not have been likely to purchase as an individual book before reading them on the app (Albanese).

Skoobe has also established themselves as a service that provides high quality books, as the current CEO Constance Landsberg said in a recent interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair, “Publishers are growing their title base constantly [on Skoobe] and are establishing strategies on how best to use the potential of subscription services. Skoobe is proving to be a great opportunity to market titles, especially from the backlist, and new authors alongside bestsellers and new releases” (Albanese).

She went on to say that 80% of their customers rate their books as “very good” after reading them and this is something they take great pride in (Albanese).

Thus they have been able to avoid the fear that many authors have regarding the subscription model: that their books will be undervalued in an environment that is full of bad quality books that could come from anywhere – something that is sometimes the case with North American versions of this same kind of service where many self-published books drown out the books the service can get from publishers (Weinberg). Instead, Skoobe not only provides new readers for certain authors, but also 25% of the readers on Skoobe buy print versions of books they discovered there (Albanese).

Thus, the North American publishing industry should look to the success of Skoobe and see that subscriptions can be done. This case study has shown that it is okay for ebooks to not hold a large part of the book market, and owners of publishing companies can still be in the subscription ebook business and make a success out of it. CEO Constance Landsberg acknowledges that it is essential to keep all parties involved benefiting from your business model – customers, authors, and publishers. With this in mind, Skoobe has been able to provide an accessible service across multiple platforms that offers high quality books, all in a very small ebook market. If they can do it, so can we.

Resources:

 

Adamowski, Jaroslaw. “France, Germany, Italy and Poland Call for Lowering VAT on Ebooks” Publishing Perspectives. April 2015. http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/04/france-germany-italy-poland-call-for-lowering-vat-on-ebooks/#.VvGzZxIrKRs
Albanese, Andrew Richards. “Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: Skoobe – Subscription Ebooks are Succeeding in Germany” Publishers Weekly. October 2015. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/international/Frankfurt-Book-Fair/article/68326-frankfurt-book-fair-2015-skoobe-subscription-e-books-are-succeeding-in-germany.html
Bertelsmann. Accessed March 24th, 2015. http://www.bertelsmann.com/company/company-profile/

dpa. “Deutscher Buchmarkt weiter im Umbruch” Zeit. October 12, 2015.

http://www.zeit.de/news/2015-10/12/literatur-deutscher-buchmarkt-weiter-im-umbruch-12121402
Duffer, Ellen. “Subscription E-Book Service ‘A Success’ In Germany.” Forbes. Oct. 31 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenduffer/2015/10/13/subscription-e-book-service-a-success-in-germany/#1891ec8f2a15

German Book Association, ebooks:

http://www.boersenverein.de/de/portal/Presse/158382?presse_id=1100374

G., Nelly. “Meine Erfahrung mit Skoobe – der Ebook Flatrate.” Nelly’s Lesseecke blog. June 19th, 2015. http://nellysleseecke.blogspot.ca/2015/06/meine-erfahrung-mit-skoobe-der-ebook.html
Hoffelder, Nate. “Streaming ebook Service Skoobe Gains support from the Illumina eReader.” The Digital Reader. July 22nd, 2015.

http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/07/22/streaming-ebook-service-skoobe-gains-support-for-the-illumina-ereader/

Hoffelder, Nate. “Skoobe Launches in Germany.” Digital Reader. March 2012. http://the-digital-reader.com/2012/03/01/skoobe-launches-in-germany-publishers-do-like-ebook-rentals/

Hoffelder, Nate. “Skoobe Expands into Spain.” Digital Reader. October 2014. http://the-digital-reader.com/2014/10/28/skoobe-expands-spain/

Holtzbrinck. Accessed March 24th, 2015. https://www.holtzbrinck.com/

Illian, Jason. “Why the Subscription Model for Ebooks Doesn’t Work (at Least Not Yet)” Entrepreneur. June 26th, 2015. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247762

“Ins Ursprungsland der Flatrates” Buchreport. October 2014. http://www.buchreport.de/nachrichten/nachrichten_detail/datum/2014/10/28/ins-ursprungsland-der-flatrates.htm?no_cache=1

Klosowski, Thorin. “Are Ebook Subscription Services Worth it?” Lifehacker. January 31, 2014. http://lifehacker.com/are-ebook-subscription-services-worth-it-1513205735
Kozlowski, Michael. “Macmillan Buys Into the Ebook Subscription Model Via Skoobe” http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/macmillan-buys-into-the-ebook-subscription-model-via-skoobe

 

Lischka, Konrad. “App-Test Skoobe: Das taugt Ebook flatrate” Spiegel Online. 2012. http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/e-books-flatrate-skoobe-a-821881.html

 

Matting, Matthias. “VAT on Books and Ebooks in German Speaking Countries” How to Publish in Germany. September 2015. http://www.how-to-publish-in-germany.com/vat-on-books-and-e-books-in-german-speaking-countries/

 

Shaw, Hollie. “Ebook sales are flattening, but does that mean the technology is dying as consumers unplug?” Financial Post. July 15, 2015. http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/e-book-sales-are-flattening-but-does-that-mean-the-technology-is-dying-as-consumers-unplug

 

Skoobe website. https://www.skoobe.de/

 

Statista. “E-book share of total consumer book sales in the United States from 2009-2015.” Accessed March 23rd, 2016.  http://www.statista.com/statistics/190847/ebook-share-of-total-consumer-book-sales-in-the-us-till-2015/

 

Statista. “Statistiken und Umfragen zu E-Books.” Accessed March 20th 2015.
http://de.statista.com/themen/596/e-books/

 

Süssman, Ingrid. “German Ebook Sales Reaches 4.3 of Overall Book Market” Publishing Perspectives.  June 24th, 2015.  http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/06/german-ebook-sales-reaches-4-3-of-overall-book-market/#.VuoTlJMrKRs

 

Süssman, Ingrid. “German Book Market 2014: Nonfiction Up, Overall Sales Down.” Publishing Perspectives. June 16th, 2015.
http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/06/german-book-market-2014-nonfiction-up-overall-sales-down/#.VuoAGJMrKRs

 

Weinberg, Dana Beth. “Which Authors Do Subscription Service Benefit?” Digital Publishing. April 2015. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2015/which-authors-do-subscription-services-benefit/?et_mid=745706&rid=240986630

 

Winter, Caroline. “The Story Behind Germany’s Scant E-Book Sales.” Bloomberg. April 19, 2012. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-19/the-story-behind-germanys-scant-e-book-sales

Reading Response—Hacking the word

This article is an excellent corollary to Liu’s “From reading to social computing.” James Bridle says that, the internet is yet to feel like a “literary plot device” because we still hold on to notions of the “single-authored work.” Liu’s hint at “democratization and decentralization of knowledge” emphasizes the same.

Bridle’s idea of “the first native literary form of the network” is fan fiction. He says “It seems native to the network because it embodies the network’s inherent disposition towards hacking and world-building, overlapping fictions which take from anywhere to generate new stories.”

However, this is Web 2.0 we are talking about. Every form of literature that exists digitally could be called native to the Web because the very medium of expression, compared to print media, is different. For example, reading a review in the newspaper is a vastly different experience to reading a review on online. Reading the review online opens up the possibility of simultaneous comments. Readers post comments, “like” them, insert links to other similar, useful, or relevant comments as well as other web sites. It is a wholly alive, walking, talking dynamic community experience. It is a wholesome celebration of literature—and one that only the web makes possible.

Of note here is Liu’s example of using social computing in literary study. He explains how his students used Facebook to enact the Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet. They created profile pages of all the characters, created “friend” relations between them, created the Facebook group called “The Streets of Verona” whose message-board forum staged a large fight between the Capulets and the Montagues and so on. In essence, according to Liu, “Facebook became a platform for character or role-playing. It allowed the students to study the play as if they were directors staging it in an alternative medium.” This is an excellent example of creating literature native to the Web. Using Facebook to enact a Shakespearean play is a whole novel form of literary expression and one that only the Web, specifically Web 2.0, could have allowed. In fact this could be taken, in Bridle’s own words, as an example of “fiction, which takes from anywhere to generate new stories.”

Bridle in his own words seems to echo Liu’s ideas of “co-authorship”. He says, “But the true literatures of the network will emerge when we abandon notions of the single-authored work, when we abandon authority entirely, … when we truly begin to understand, and describe, the technologically-saturated culture we are already living in.”

But while he feels we are yet to get there, I think we have already made leaps and bounds. Every form of expression on the Web is native to the Web, and by extension—true literature of the Web.

Content not container

Content not container: The standalone importance of content

Papyrus scrolls

The first ever book was written on a piece of bark, or maybe a leaf. It had to be. The papermaking process was officially described for the first time by the Chinese in AD 105. But the words have been pouring forth since 3000 BC in Egypt first when content was wound around a thick “type of paper” made from the pith of Cyperus papyrus.

The blog post Ancient Egyptian Medicine tells us, “The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a textbook on surgery and details anatomical observations and the “examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis” of numerous ailments It was probably written around 1600 BC… Medical information in it dates from as early as 3000 BC. Imhotep in the 3rd dynasty is credited as the original author of the papyrus text, and founder of ancient Egyptian medicine. The earliest known surgery was performed in Egypt around 2750 BC.”

The pictorial cuneiform language must have been a challenge to read and master, but the preparation of the “container” to carry the language must have been an even bigger obstacle. Imagine hunting for the wetland sedge (easier if you live by the Nile, considering the plant grows freely around the river), removing the outer stem, extricating the inner fibrous pith, cutting it out into two layers of strips, laying them at right angles to each other, gluing them, drying them, and finally, being able to write on them. Manual labour at its earnest! Now imagine inscribing complex medical texts on these scrolls. Paper might not have been an option but that didn’t stop Imhotep’s medical assistants from saving Egyptian lives.

While Imhotep’s papyrus forms the basis of modern medicine and surgery, the carrier of the texts have evolved into thick tomes of parchment, first created from mulberry bark by Tsai Lun of China in 105 AD and mass-produced since Gutenberg’s Bible in 15th century AD.

Content not container: Words stay the same, the container evolves

Vellum parchments

Marcus Tullius Cicero—the Roman philosopher, lawyer, and orator—wrote a letter titled de Officiis, earnestly explaining what it meant to live an idealistic life, and which path to choose when the “honourable and the expedient conflict”. Written to his son, his words laid the foundation for moral public behaviour, even though it failed to revive the republican system or prevent the assassination of Julius Caesar—shortly after which, Cicero himself was assassinated. As Alexandra Suich elaborates in The Future of The Book, “Cicero probably dictated his letter to his slave, who wrote it down and made subsequent copies. De Officiis was read and studied throughout the rise of the Roman Empire and survived the subsequent fall. It shaped the thought of Renaissance thinkers like Erasmus; centuries later still it inspired Voltaire. ‘No one will ever write anything more wise,’ he said. The book’s words have not changed; their vessel, though, has gone through relentless reincarnation and metamorphosis.”

“A thousand years later monks meticulously made copies by hand, averaging only a few pages a day. Then, in the 15th century, de Officiis was copied by a machine. It was printed in Mainz, Germany, on a printing press owned by Johann Fust, an early partner of Johannes Gutenberg, the pioneer of European printing. It is dated 1466. Some 500 years after it was printed, this beautiful volume sits in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, its home since 1916.” (The Future of The Book)

While the printed forms have seen paperbacks as well as hard covers, now some non-printed forms are available too. “You can read it free online or download it as an e-book in English, Latin, and any number of other tongues.” (The Future of The Book)

Content not container: Allen Lane’s Penguincubator

Paperbacks

In 15th century Venice, the highest paid jobs were scribal jobs in the Vatican. With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, as Richard Nash points out in Publishing’s Future: When Editors Eat Robots, “it eliminated the writer as copyist — in the words of an historian of the time, ‘the writer as trained scribal laborer.’” But it also began as era of bulk-produced content that could reach the masses. It was about delivery of content to ensure the spread of literacy. Allen Lane’s Penguincubator is a revolutionary example of taking the same even further.

Who cared how the container looked as long as it reached everybody? “Allen Lane (British publisher and founder of Penguin Books in 1935) wanted books to be cheap and convenient. The vending machine was what allowed him to put books cheaply onto railway platforms, into the squares, near buildings — not to draw the consumer to where the books were, but to put the books where the consumers were.” (Publishing’s Future: When Editors Eat Robots)

That was the era of paperbacks. And they were cool. When hardcovers came by, paperbacks became “cheap”. These days books come out in hardcovers before the “lighter, cheaper paperback edition” can hit the market. Why? And what does this have to do with content?

Nothing, apparently.

C.C. in his article titled Why books come out in hardback before paperback elucidates, “The paperback was pioneered in the 19th century and became popular in continental Europe. It took off in Britain and America in the 1930s, when publishers such as Penguin and New American Library began mass-producing cheap but well-designed reproductions of older texts, aimed at a new generation of readers who could not afford hardbacks. During the Second World War, interest in reading as a pastime increased just as paper shortages demanded more efficient methods of printing. The paperback was the solution.”

Hardcovers

These days if a book is supposed to sell well, a hardcover to it is what a cinema ticket is to a film. If you want to watch the latest movie, hit the theatre. The DVD comes out several months later. Similarly, the book has to be bought in hardcover and one has to shell out the extra bucks. “And they hold a certain snob value, too: literary editors traditionally don’t review paperbacks. Once hardback sales have slowed, a paperback edition is released. Some publishers time their hardback editions to come out just before Christmas, eyeing the gift market, before publishing the paperback edition in time for the summer holidays.” (Why books come out in hardback before paperback )

Dust jackets of hardcovers hold aesthetic appeal. They are prized by modern book collectors—in fact, ninety per cent of a hard cover’s value lies in the dust jacket. These are brilliant examples of craftsmanship—choosing the superior cloth bind (collectors’ editions boast of leather or silk), decorative borders, and displaying beautiful end papers of an equally expensive quality.

The blog post The History of Dust Jacket describes, “A striking jacket design would be more likely to grab the attention of the book shop browser and could also be used to advertise other books published by the same company.” They are more durable and resistant to wear and tear and therefore preferred by librarians as opposed to the thin paper covers of paperbacks. The winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize “The Narrow Road to the Deep North“, by Richard Flannagan boasted strong, rigid covers, bright red endpapers, and weighed more than half a kilogram, at 464 pages, 22cm in length, dust jacket et al. It also costs $26.95. The paperback edition is lighter, and cheaper. (Why books come out in hardback before paperback)
Some said the slow death of paperback had begun. But paperbacks have proved resilient to hard covers. If any, they are in danger of death from ebooks. If cheap is what matters here, ebooks are even more cost-effective.

In all this endless debate, nobody mentioned content because content remained the same. The Narrow Road to the Deep North has had takers in hard cover as well as paperback. In fact, the paperback version has sold more simply because of the monetary savings it offered while the hard cover has been a luxury item. The book’s contents, however, was, is, and will always be a harrowing tale of Australian prisoners of war in Burma.
The carrier evolved further—from papyrus to parchment to paperback to hardcover.

Content not container: The pinnacle

Ebooks and the next step in industrial revolution

What is a digital book?
An electronic book (variously: e-book, eBook, e-Book, ebook, digital book or e-edition) is a book-publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on computers or other electronic devices.

Suich says in The Future of The Book, “Historically books were a luxury item. Having become cheap enough for the masses in the 20th century, in the 21st century digital technology and global markets have made them more accessible still. In 2013 around 1.4m International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) were issued, according to Bowker, a research firm, up from around 8,100 in 1960.”

These figures do not take self-publishing into account—a wholly different phenomenon unto its own.

While the ebook revolution has had many fearing the death of the print industry as we know it, “The rise of digital technology—and especially Amazon, a bookshop unlike any seen before—underlined those fears. In the past decade people have been falling over themselves to predict the death of books, of publishers, of authors and of bookshops, even of reading itself. Of all those believed at risk, only the bookshops have actually suffered serious damage.” (The Future of The Book)

In fact, as Richard Nash puts it in Publishing’s Future: When Editors Eat Robots, “Bezos is not destroying the publishing industry. “He represents its pinnacle. Its apotheosis. But, of course, when you reach the pinnacle, you’ve nowhere else to go. So Bezos has also introduced the end of the industrial era of publishing. By introducing the Kindle.”

Ebook vs print

When comparing different forms of technology that have aided the written word, a thick papyrus sheet to a thin but resilient piece of mulberry bark has been a major, evolutionary leap—one that gave rise to revolutions and shaped civilizations around the world. The post-Gutenberg printed forms have mostly been about instituting democracy—educate the masses and give them a voice. The content throughout has remained unquestioned.

One can hardly choose between a papyrus scroll and vellum parchment, considering each was available as the only option of its era. Then again when printing took hold and went through various stages of refinement, the difference between the two major printed forms, namely paperback and hardcover, was mostly about aesthetic appeal. One can hardly argue for or against content when the absence or presence of a dust jacket is the only parameter making a visible difference.

The actual battle began the day the Kindle, and by extension, the ebook reader entered the arena.

Paperless vs paper: Now that is a very big, quantifiable difference and one that has called content readability and accessibility into question. But is it really as bad as they say?

The innovative difference

Baldur Bjarnason makes a living on ebooks. You should hear him talk about “Great text” which “transcends nothing”. The interesting fact about this argument is that Bjarnason emphasizes on the importance of content as a standalone and holds both print and ebooks to their inadequacies. In doing so he further validates the argument that it is content and not container that matters. Every container has its fault: a print can have bad typography, illegible text, the paper can be of poor, “pirated” quality, the design can be off putting. In the same vein, wouldn’t it be fair to say that an ebook reader is yet to explore more in fonts, typography, and readability?

Ebooks as Bjarnason points out look worse than their trade paperback or hardcover counterparts but he also argues that it is simply a natural corollary to the fact that print and digital are two extremely different media to begin with. For example, choices of typography in the ebook might be restricted but that is a conscious decision of ebook makers. In the article Font swap in iBooks, Glenn Fleishman says Apple shipped iBooks for the iPad in 2010 with five font choices: Baskerville, Cochin, Palatino, Times New Roman, and Verdana. The latest iBook version still retains only Times New Roman of that lot with the addition of seven new fonts, six of which are serif and two san serif. Clearly, Apple is still experimenting with its reader.

The important point to remember about ebooks is that they don’t really need a dedicated ebook reader. Kindle sales might be in decline but that’s the advantage of owning an ebook. Its contents are fluid. Any number of devices from tablets to computers to ipads to mobile phones can allow you to read the book that you bought online, sitting, at your desk in a different continent altogether. You don’t have to pack all those books into your bag and lug them across oceans. You can simply store them on your e-shelf or on own your computer with thousands of other files. The underlying point here is that irrespective of the device, you get the same content.

Fiction readers

According to the article Romantic Fiction’s Passion for eBooks, by Alison Flood, “Romance might have a fusty, old-fashioned image – crinolines and waltzes, tycoons and secretaries – but it seems her match with digital publishing was made in heaven. Mainstream imprint Ebury, part of one of the UK’s largest publishing conglomerates Random House, certainly thinks so, and is plunging headfirst into digital romance with a new list, Rouge Romance.”

If really the smell of a printed page, and the beauty of the typography were to enhance the romance reader’s options, romantic ebooks would not have sold as well. But with genre readers of romance, mystery, thrillers, and so on, two things matter—the content and cheaper alternatives—as they tend to be such voracious readers.

Self-publishing and the importance of content

Then there is the entire self-publishing phenomenon and its global success—made possible only by the digital revolution. As Suich writes in The Future of The Book, “Wool started off as a short story online about a subterranean city called the Silo. Reader enthusiasm and feedback encouraged its author, Hugh Howey, to extend it into a novel. More enthusiasm followed. Simon & Schuster, a big publisher, did an unusual deal to license rights to the print book, while Mr Howey continued to sell the e-book off his own bat. It became a bestseller.” If this had to be about the content, one of the two forms would have outsold the other but both forms sold very well and Ridley Scott seems to be in on the fact, now—Wool is on its way to becoming a big budgeted feature film!

“Like Wool, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey” started off online, and some of its e-book success has been attributed to the fact that reading erotica is more discreetly done on a tablet. But since being acquired by Random House it has done remarkably well in its printed form, too. All told, it and its two sequels have chalked up sales of over 100m worldwide.” (The Future of The Book)

Content not container: Enhancing content

Audiobooks

So far I have made an argument for the standalone importance of content, irrespective of the carrier. But the appealing fact about technology is that it is constantly evolving. The evolution that I am talking about here takes into account the importance of content again, irrespective of the form, thus enhancing it.

Welcome to audiobooks

“Of the various ways in which technology is expanding what a book can be, one of the most successful so far has been to add to books something that children have enjoyed forever, and that most people required until the 20th century: another person to do the reading. The cost of recording audiobooks has fallen from around $25,000 in the late 1990s to around $2,000-3,000 today, says Donald Katz of Audible, an audiobook firm owned by Amazon.” (The Future of The Book)

Audiobooks have changed the way content is viewed. Instead of turning pages—print or digital—one gets to plug the book in, sit back, and let their auditory canals process the magic. One could tune in during the long hours of commute and feel the satisfaction as they, literally speaking, hear the words pouring forth. In fact, taking it a step further, a study was conducted to determine “the impact of the use of audiobooks with struggling readers in a school library audiobook club.”

“The primary goal of this study was to answer the research questions 1) Do the use of audiobooks and participation in an audiobook club impact the reading ability of struggling readers? 2) Do the use of audiobooks and participation in an audiobook club impact struggling readers’ attitudes toward reading? both research questions led the researchers to proclaim the use of audiobooks with struggling readers a success. The success of this research project is significant given the broad use of audiobooks in literacy and library programs across the United States. Teachers and school librarians may also use these findings as a rationale for adding audiobooks to the list of reading strategies used successfully with struggling readers.” (Use of Audiobooks in a School Library and Positive Effects of Struggling Readers’ Participation in a Library-Sponsored Audiobook Club)

Finally, let us talk about Spritz.

“Spritz is an application which beams words to a reader one at a time. Like a treadmill, readers can set their own speed and read more quickly, because their eyes can stay in one place instead of scanning a page. Its most immediate application is to allow longish texts to be read on smallish screens, such as those of watches.” (The Future of The Book)

Imagine consuming whole books this way. While those who care about content, read on “beam by beam”, fusspots gripe about the carrier—as usual!

Content not container: Conclusion

The experiments will continue. The efforts in improving technology have been and will always be tireless. Carriers of the written word will continue to evolve. Innovations would abound and reading devices would become more diverse. But that said, the one aspect which would remain constant would be content. In fact, the one aspect for which all these efforts would be made would be content—and not because a certain type of device would be superior to the other types but simply so that a reader could have a choice.

The constant evolution has never been about the form or type of device, it has always been about choice—and one that a reader rightly deserves. It is my prerogative if I wish to pick up the paperback or the hardcover or the ebook or even the audiobook of Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue. The fact remains that it will always be a well-crafted suspense and a fitting conclusion to a trilogy as told by a master storyteller.

Are We There Yet?: Navigating the Landscape of Reading

Abstract

In this paper, I further expand upon the discussion regarding how we read across platforms. This paper addresses how our brains respond to reading on screens as opposed to print, and investigates whether differences in reading comprehension and retention may be contingent on or affected by environment, learned behaviours, and social factors around reading. Through a review of the current research on these topics, I explore the various factors that influence how we read and engage with texts, and what we as publishers can do to improve the current landscape of reading.

Continue reading “Are We There Yet?: Navigating the Landscape of Reading”

Where did the story of ebooks begin?

A history of the electronic book

kindle

What do publishers think about the electronic book/ ebook? Do they see it as a threat or an opportunity? In a world that is shifting more and more towards digital, publishing houses have to learn how to effectively publish their books in a digital format, in order to keep up with the competition of the Word Wide Web.

This essay  is looking at the beginnings of the electronic book, who first introduced into the world the notion of the electronic book and who was its inventor. It looks at how publishers see the ebook and how they had to change in order to adopt this new product.

The traditional book has seen a lot of transformation in the past 80 years. Publishers think that now is the tipping point of no return, that the traditional publishing will emerge into digital and self-publishing, seeing the drastic changes that happen in the publishing industry. In 2009, the ISBN agency reported that there were over a million self-published books (print or electronic) – in this situation, the role of the publisher is threatened, as contemporary authors, or even someone who isn’t an experienced author, can just publish books online, almost for free, devaluing the high quality content of a book professionally published by a press.

Publishers feel that self publishing of books in electronic formats devalues the content of a good book, as there is an increasing pressure to keep the prices low and to offer more value for money. Also, the competition has doubled, perhaps tripled, and readers now get an overwhelming sense that they are constantly being sold to, making marketing more difficult.

Ebooks have made publishing houses’ life more difficult because there are many ebook formats, that means publishing houses have to do three or more times the work that could have been done once. Publishing houses have to publish ebooks in at least three formats, as every retailer uses different file formats.

Their work has significantly increased, as every separate format has to be run through a specific technical list of steps to create the file properly, these include numerous proofing and quality control steps. The skill-sets required to do the file preparation, output and delivery can’t be found in the traditional publishing roles, therefore publishers have to invest capital in order to train existing production and design staff or hire new people.

Metadata is very important when it comes to ebooks. If the metadata is incorrect, the readers can’t find the ebook. Ebook buyers run into metadata problems all the time, that is why, most publishing companies hire someone that will be in charge with making sure ebooks have the correct metadata. This is another role that was created thanks to ebooks, more money to be invested.

First attempts to the, so called, electronic book. 

There is a lot of controversy as to whom was the first to introduce the notion of a book in electronic format an who was the first inventor. Little they have known that in 80 years, the so called electronic book will create a lot of controversy amongst the publishing industry, threatening the existence of the traditional print book and making publishers struggle with so many ebook formats they have to provide when they publish their books digitally.

Bob Brown (1930)

The idea of the electronic book was firstly introduced by Bob Brown, in his book “The Readies”. The idea came to him after listening to his first “talkie”, which is a movie with sound. In 1930 he wrote the book “The Readies” where he talks about the notion of electronic format books, playing off the idea of the “talkie”. In many ways, Brown predicted the contemporary ebook, writing in his book that the reading machine will allow its readers to change the type size, avoid paper cuts and save trees.


In his vision, the electronic book will change the medium of reading, by bringing a completely new perspective: “A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing”. He intended this innovation as a way for literature to keep up with the advancement of the other industries, such as the advanced reading practices of the cinema-viewing public, as seen in the “talkies”. Even though he was the one to first introduce the idea of the electronic book, his book remained forgotten until 1993, when Jerome McGann declared about the book: “When the after-history of modernism is written, this collection . . . will be recognized as a work of signal importance”.

Even though Bob Brown first introduced the notion of the electronic book approximately 85 years ago, a notion that is most close to what the ebooks and e-Readers are today, the early commercial e-Readers did not follow his model.

Candidates for the first book inventors

Who first invented the ebook is much debated within the publishing industry. There are a few candidates that are enumerated below.

Roberto Busa (late 1940s)

Some of the first candidates to the creators of the ebook is Roberto Busa. Index Thomisticus is a heavily annotated electronic index of Thomas Aquinas’ works. Index Thomisticus was planned as a tool to perform text searches in Aquinas’ works.

The project began in 1949 and was done with the help of a sponsorship from Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM. The project took approximately 30 years and it launched in 1970s, with 56 printed volumes of the Index Thomistichus, stored on a single computer. Ten years later, with the appearance of CD-ROMs, a new version was produced and made available on CD-ROMs. In 2005 a web based version was launched, sponsored by Fundación Tomás de Aquino and CAEL and one year later, in 2006, the Index Thomisticus Treebank project started syntactic annotation of the entire corpus.

Roberto Busa is considered by the industry a pioneer of digital humanities. His project is seen as an outstanding mileage in Informatics and Computing in Humanities, as it marks the beginning of the field of computing in the humanities.

Angela Ruiz Robles (1949)

Angela Ruiz Robles is another pioneer in inventing the innovative electronic book. She invented the Mechanical Encyclopedia 60 years ago, with the aim to reduce the weight of books in students’ school bags. She also believed that this gadget will make reading more accessible to all. As she designed the device in her home country, Spain Because Spain’s economy was suffering at the time, her design was not prioritized and never received the funding required to be produced in mass. “The implementation of all the specifications of the invention was impractical,” said Maria Jose Rodriguez Fortiz, language professor at the University of Granada.

The first ebook was produced to function through air compression, with changeable spools that carried content. It was reported to have zoom capabilities and utilized coils to move the scrolls. The spools and other inserts were housed within a hard metal case with a handle. She created an original prototype that is working and is now displayed in the National Museum of Science and Technology in Spain. In her later years when everything was technologically viable, she had another attempt at re-waping the project, but again, she did not manage to secure any funding.

Her patent is considered to be the the most close gadget to what ebooks are in our days.

Doug Engelbart and Andries van Dam (1960s)

Some historians consider electronic books started with  the NLS project initiated by Doug Engelbart at Stanford Research Institute and the Hypertext Editing System and FRESS projects initiated by Andries van Dam at Brown University. Van Dam is considered to be the one who coined the term “Electronic Book”, that was established enough to be used as an article title in 1985.

Michael S. Hart  and the First Ebook implementations (1971)

Despite there were so many attempts before 1970s at creating the electronic book Michael Hart was the one who managed to finally create the first ebook. He was provided computer time by the operators of Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois, and he used that time to type the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer in plain text. This was the first electronic document ever created. His future plan was to create such document, using plain text, that can be easily downloaded and viewed on various electronic devices.

Project Gutenberg was initiated by Hart with the main aim being to produce more electronic copies of text, in particular books. It’s mission was to provide to everyone interested in literary works, electronic formats of lit works for free.

In January 2009 Michael Hart stated the following in an email interview: “On July 4, 1971, while still a freshman at the University of Illinois (UI), I decided to spend the night at the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the UI Materials Research Lab, rather than walk miles home in the summer heat, only to come back hours later to start another day of school. I stopped on the way to do a little grocery shopping to get through the night, and day, and along with the groceries they put in the faux parchment copy of The U.S. Declaration of Independence that became quite literally the cornerstone of Project Gutenberg. That night, as it turned out, I received my first computer account – I had been hitchhiking on my brother’s best friend’s name, who ran the computer on the night shift. When I got a first look at the huge amount of computer money I was given, I decided I had to do something extremely worthwhile to do justice to what I had been given. This was such a serious, and intense thought process for a college freshman, my first thought was that I had better eat something to get up enough energy to think of something worthwhile enough to repay the cost of all that computer time. As I emptied out groceries, the faux parchment Declaration of Independence fell out, and the light literally went on over my head like in the cartoons and comics… I knew what the future of computing, and the internet, was going to be… ‘The Information Age.’ The rest, as they say, is history.”

Hart started keying in other works, and as the disk space was getting larger he gathered volunteers to type the Bible one individual book at a time. In 1989 Project Gutenberg completed its 10th ebook and that was The King James Bible. Project Gutenberg’s mission can be stated in eight words: “To encourage the creation and distribution of ebooks,” by everybody, and by every possible means, while implementing new ideas, new methods and new software.

Historians consider that the credit for being the inventor of the electronic book should be given to Michael Hart, as he was the one who digitized the content of a book and distributed it in electronic format.

Libraries

US Libraries started to  provide free ebooks to the public in 1998 on their website and associated services. The ebooks were primarily scholarly, technical and professional in nature, and could not be downloaded. After a few years, libraries started offering free downloadable popular fiction and non-fiction to the public and also have launched an ebook lending model.

In time, the number of libraries providing free downloadable ebooks and lending models increased, however libraries started to face challenges as well. Publishers were selling ebooks to libraries but they were only given a limited licence, meaning that libraries were not owning the electronic text, but they were allowed to circulate it for a limited amount of time or a limited amount of checkins.

As it can be seen above, even from the beginnings of the ebooks, publishers have regarded them more as a threat rather than opportunity. They have started to provide limited licences to libraries in order to ensure a stable profit from their ebooks.

via GIPHY

Industry professionals have predicted that ebooks will soon take over the traditional book. This hasn’t happened yet. This prediction has scared a lot of publishing houses, as that could mean bankruptcy for them. Researchers have investigated how people utilize, comprehend and process digital and paper books and their findings were that people can read better from a printed book compared to the electronic book, where there are multiple distractions, such as: hypertext, e-mail, videos,  and pop – up advertisements.

The electronic book has brought a lot of changes in the publishing industry and has transformed how publishing houses function. They have brought extra costs for training staff new skills, cost for production and the risk for bankruptcy because of self-publishing online. The invention of the ebook might have been revolutionary, but from the point of view of a publisher, it’s a threat to their current publishing model.

As a conclusion, I will answer the question posed at the start of this essay. The electronic book is a revolutionary invention that has changed a lot in the publishing sphere. Publishers see it as a threat as many studies have shown that ebooks will take over books. This hasn’t happened yet, and in my opinion, it never will. Ebooks will forever remain an extra that you can buy besides the traditional printed book, whenever you are short on space when you are travelling, or you can’t carry something heavy (life a few books) and you just grab your e-Reader to do your daily reads. Publishers shouldn’t see ebooks a threat, but rather as an opportunity.

My response to this week’s readings, in which I make my country look pretty backwards.

Reading about audience data this week, I immediately had flashbacks to my undergrad years where we spoke at length about TV and radio ratings. Traditionally, for radio, these are carried out by survey, where audience members self-report their daily media consumption and answer a bunch of questions about their spending habits. Note, this survey is still done with paper and pen in NZ. TV ratings have developed a little more with the times and are completed by installing a little box on a household’s TV that would record everything they watched (like the Family Guy episode, if you’ve seen it). Over time there have been weird restrictions that serve to exclude anyone but nice, safe, upper middle class families. To once again use NZ as an example, there are 600 boxes for a population of 4.5 million people. Flawed is an understatement, and I could go on for hours pointing out the issues, but the thing is, ratings exist solely to quantify and serve up audiences to advertisers. That’s it. No matter how much time and effort and passion is put into creating quality content, in commercial media the only thing that matters is the ratings, because ratings equal money. The system is archaic and not even close to properly representative of what people actually engage with, but so long as it’s good enough for the advertisers, it’s good enough for the media companies.

Moving into the digital arena and the Amazon (as bookseller and TV producer)/GoodReads/Netflixes of the world, their use of data is different, largely because they’re no longer reliant on advertising revenue to exist. This is a pretty new phenomenon – advertising revenue has been the basis of most media business models for decades, so audience data has, until now, served that purpose. But when you take that structure away and at the same time have technology facilitating unprecedented data collection, what happens?

A radio station can show their advertisers that (in theory) their morning show attracts 180,000 mainly female listeners aged 16-35 so they can sell ads to the kinds of advertisers looking for that audience. The actual quality of the data doesn’t matter much if everyone is happy, and the world turns. However, Jellybooks knows that only 5% of readers finished over 75% of the books they tested, and Netflix knows who finishes what, when, and how many times (and if they had access to my assignment deadlines they’d know why as well). GoodReads’ data is different, but it’s still hugely valuable to the owner, Amazon. Aside from the incredible detail and scale of data that they collect, what they all have in common is that they aren’t using it to sell advertising to external parties, and this seems to be an advantage. It means they only have to focus on what is useful to them, and don’t have to share any of it with anyone. They’re still competing, but they can compete more with their carefully-constructed content and other conveniences and services they offer and they don’t have to worry about keeping advertisers sweet. The Netflix piece mentioned that traditional TV companies were annoyed that Netflix didn’t participate in the ratings system, but they have absolutely no reason to. They have everything they need already.

I’m fascinated by what this means for media industries generally. Advertising-reliant media aren’t facing competition from sales/subscription based media, but Google and Facebook are drawing advertisers away from traditional entertainment media entirely with their cheap, data driven, hyper-targeted advertising options. This puts the pressure on them to get creative, but history tells us that it’s actually likely to make them less creative. Times of financial pressure have led to media becoming extremely risk averse (see: all sequels, all the time). The pressure seems likely to go on traditional media to seek out the kind of data that the digital giants have, and use it to shape their content to play it safe, get their audience numbers, and keep their advertisers interested. But born-digital companies have a structure that supports and facilitates the kind of data collection most companies can only dream of, and it would be nigh on impossible to replicate. There’s a bit of a leap to make from paper surveys to big data.

Limited-Time Content

Limited-Time Content

 

Abstract:

This paper explores the multiple purposes of Snapchat as a publishing platform. The app has gone through numerous transitions since its inception — I will explain the common personal uses of this app, explore the different ways media companies are publishing on Snapchat and delve into how Snapchat is becoming a media company itself. I will explore the multiple ways magazines have expanded their brands to Snapchat and what this could mean for the magazine industry in general. Has trendy publishing shifted from 140 character limitations to limited-time access to the content? Snapchat has not changed the magazine industry but has expanded it and thus provided an innovative outlet that allows different content formats.

Continue reading “Limited-Time Content”

READ IN A DIFFERENT WAY——The development and possibilities of the Amazon Kindle

Pub 802
Maggie Zhao (Qinyu Zhao)

 

The invention of Kindle is one of milestone in digital media especially in digital publishing area. As we know, digital media have an effect on our daily life by changing media environment we are in. Portable devices in today are different with the mass media in earlier era, which enable individuality became the center of the media and even the media itself. And Kindle is the most successful electronic reading mobile machine nowadays.

Books and Amazon

Amazon is exactly a book company or a retail company, or an Internet company and even could be seen as an infrastructure company. To some extent, Amazon is an algorithmically managed infrastructure company that has single–handedly rewritten the publishing industry’s rulebook. The data shows that five of the world’s biggest tech companies have collected 70% of the industry’s estimated $300 billion in revenue over the past 12 months. And Amazon is the biggest one, it accounts for 33.2 percent of Internet revenue by the five companies.1 The success of Amazon doesn’t just rely on buying up other book retailers and distributors; it also acquired statisticians, analytics, data miners and hardware technicians.

At the same time, enter Amazon, which some people still erroneously regard as a mere bookshop at first, when in fact it either has become the Walmart of the web. In order to realize that ambition, some years ago Amazon embarked on an exceedingly far-sighted strategy. As the company built a cloud-computing infrastructure to support its colossal retailing and logistical operation, it designed that system to be dual-purpose: it supported the company’s core business, but it could also be rented to outside users, for a fee.2 With the development of business field, the new technology network also benefits books’ market. Thus the Amazon Web Services, a global cloud-computing platform, which operates from 11 geographical regions across the world was born. The core components are the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), which together enable anyone with a credit card to rent servers by the minute and unimaginable amounts of online storage capacity. Of course, these basic technology developments have a significant positive impact on other advanced service such like Kindle.

The focus of the new publishing order should be Amazon’s signature product:  the Kindle. Amazon has sold millions of Kindles since the device’s launch in 2007, making it its own bestselling product. In 2010, Amazon claimed that Kindle books were outselling paper books in its own marketplace. What makes Kindle unique is what makes Amazon unique: its physical presence is an avatar for a stream of digital services. In the spirit of its parent, it is more infrastructure than device. Kindle provides a convenient and effective way for our reading.

Kindle’s development

Kindle’s development can be regarded as progress towards satisfying people’s increasing demand on a better reading experience. What’s more, Kindle also helps us to read whenever and wherever, since it’s portable and light. The development of Kindle reflect two core ideas: focus strictly on reading and grasp the trend of the times.

Taking Kindle’s layout for an example, the design of Kindle became more and more similar to traditional books with the addition of some digital media advantages. he digital media advantages. The original Kindle has an off-white plastic casing and an asymmetric, beveled shape, like a closed three-ring binder. It has a rubberized back that makes it easier for users to hold the device. And Amazon has changed the design of Kindle a few times since its introduction. The third-generation device, also known as Kindle Keyboard, is less angular than the original model. It initially came in two versions: a WiFi-only model and a 3G and WiFi model, the former of which is no longer available. In September 2011, Amazon unveiled three new Kindle models with E Ink electronic ink displays like the originals, along with a tablet called Kindle Fire. The first new Kindle model, which is now the base model for Amazon, uses a five-way controller and doesn’t have a physical keyboard. It’s the smallest Kindle yet, measuring in at 6.5 inches (17.3 centimeters) long and 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) wide and weighing 6 ounces (170.1 grams). Two Kindle Touch models — one a WiFi only and the other a 3G and WiFi device, both with touch-screen interfaces and very few physical controls — were also introduced.

The E-ink technology enables Kindle’s screen to flash less than its tablet rivals. It connects to the Internet via the “Whispernet”, far below the speeds to which we are becoming accustomed. It is white, grey or, at a push, grey-black, and definitely plastic. Its low-tech appearance also sidesteps many of the controversies of electronic reading: slow refresh rates keep it from the skeuomorphism of Apple iBooks’ page-flip animations; its reduced connectivity discourages the distraction of social services, which means the device focusing on reading experience. Because of this small changes, it’s more like traditional reading experience when you read on Kindle. It is robust and slips easily into a bag or pocket without the protective/fetishistic coverings of more expensive technologies. As technology writer Tom Armitage has noted, “the Kindle is a device that always seems content with itself. Just sitting there, not caring if you pick it up or not. Like a book.”In October 2012, Kindle Paperwhite and Paperwhite 3G were released. Two differences on the new device are a lit screen and the omission of the physical home button. Aside from the power button, the only interface on the Paperwhite is the touch-screen.

The central feature on all Kindle models, with the exception of Kindle Fire tablet, is the electronic paper screen, which is a recognition as the most effective metaphor. The screens on all Kindle models except the Fire and the recently discontinued DX measure 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) along the diagonal. Kindle Keyboard 3G and the base Kindle have a resolution of 167 pixels per inch (PPI), whereas the new Paperwhite models have a resolution of 212 PPI. 4The screen can display images in 16 levels of gray using a technology called E Ink. Unlike LCD screens, Kindle e-reader’s screen isn’t backlit. For all but the Paperwhite, you’ll need a reading light if you want to skim a novel in a setting with little ambient light. And even the Paperwhite is not actually backlit like a tablet.

New technology enable Kindle has a large stage to realize their core ideas.

Challenges and Problems

Different with the rapid development at an early stage, Kindle has been around for almost a year now, without major changes in the technology. The development of Kindle also meets with some challenges such as people’s reading habits, especially for elder people in society. They may tend to traditional paper books rather than e-books. And it’s apparent that when you use Kindle to read books for long hours, paper books seem to be a better choice. So it’s pretty necessary to required better reading experience in e-book machine like Kindle.

Additionally, Kindle connects the reader to a carefully, algorithmically managed world, a code/space that affects reader and reading, and ultimately writing and literature. Code/spaces are physical spaces in which use of the space is contingent upon software. An example is provided by the warehouses of Amazon itself, which long ago grew to complexity mentioned that they require algorithmic management. Objects placed within them conform not to any human taxonomy but to a mathematical equation, a computation of frequency that ensures goods are stored as close as possible to multiple sites of use and packaging. As a result, only an augmented human can find stock in its millions of seemingly randomly distributed square feet; if the inventory software fails, mere people are adrift among millions of scattered flotsam. From these points, Kindle still remains some disadvantages to solve.

How the Amazon Kindle Works?

In short, Amazon has two distinct advantages over earlier e-book manufacturers. The first is that the company designed the Kindle to interface seamlessly with Amazon’s online store. Amazon.com hosts more than a million titles in electronic format. Because Kindle is wireless, you can access the store without connecting the device to a computer. You can buy a book or subscribe to an electronic version of a newspaper on Amazon and download it directly to Kindle. The second advantage is that in a circular fashion, Kindle was part of what gave Amazon the large customer base. Once a reader has a Kindle in their hands, they are unlikely to go anywhere else for books. Both of these factors give Kindle a leg up on the competition. Self-publishing platforms also help the amazon to build a new publishing empire.

In July 2014, Amazon added the Kindle Unlimited subscription service to the store that at release allowed unlimited access to over 638,000 titles and over 7,000 audiobooks for a $9.99 monthly fee. It provides a larger platform for self-service publishers and has also encouraged people to re-examine the construction of digital library. More than 500,000 titles of the 600,000 online source of e-books in the Kindle Unlimited are self-publishing books which did not through the publishers but published directly by the author. Amazon is not willing to do network distributor only, but firmly control the publishing resources.

Previously, Amazon also launched Kindle Direct Publishing Select project. It encourages the authors to work on its platform and sets the stage for a subscription service. Cloud storage, Mobile Internet and subscription service make books become a kind of streaming media. Although printing books still have incomparable charm, getting rid of some specific form, books might get a longer life.

How could Kindle influence the digital society?

Since Media is an extension of human beings, and now many new media device including Kindle with a variety of functions and other personal handheld Intelligent device different from the era of mass media. Two-way interactive features combine the digital media and society more and more strongly.

In short, based on McLuhan’s theory, many scholars called on more attention on media environment. This environment based on an objective evaluation of humanistic care and protection. And media technology is also moving step by step towards the ultimate technology, not the technology inventor at first. So it will influence our society gradually.

And we can control whether the technology has positive and negative impact on human beings. It’s necessary to notice that in media environment it’s not technology that goes first but society.

 

Reference:

John Naughton. How Amazon took control of the cloud.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/how-amazon-took-control-of-the-cloud-john-naughton

Beth Snyder Bulik. How Sony e-reader lost to Kindle and how it’s battling its way back.  http://adage.com/article/digital/sony-e-reader-fighting-amazon-s-kindle-book-dominance/138589/

Sarah Harris. Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-26/amazon-vs-dot-publishers-the-book-battle-continues

Jonathan Chew. These Five Companies Take 70% of Your Online Dollars.  http://fortune.com/2015/11/06/amazon-alphabet-online-dollars/

James Bridle. From books to infrastructure.  http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/2012/06/04/from-books-to-infrastructure.html

Sarah Mitroff. Amazon Kindle Unlimited vs. Scribd vs. Oyster: E-book subscriptions battle it out.  http://www.cnet.com/how-to/amazon-kindle-unlimited-vs-scribd-vs-oyster-e-book-subscriptions/