Not the Publisher’s Problem

Most publishers are not your undergrad’s English Lit prof. They don’t care if a book is understood on a deep, intrinsic, life changing level. They only care if the book sells. There may be small independent publishers that serve a niche need or are publishing passion projects, bu at the end of the day if a book doesn’t sell (for whatever reason) the publisher is going to go out of business.

There are many reasons why books sell. It’s pretty; it’s unorthadox; it’s a conversation piece; it was recommended by a friend; the person wants to look smart; they need a couple chapters of it for school. So too are there many reasons why eBooks sell. It’s convenient; it’s a space-saver; it’s cheaper. But whatever reason it sells for, the point is that it sells and the publisher makes their money. The publisher doesn’t care if you read the book to the end, or put it down after the second chapter and never pick it up again. Why would they? They already have your money.

Publishers, it is important to remember, will publish via whatever platform is available. Paperback, hardcover, eReader…if scrolls were still used as a way of housing the written word, you could probably find them at Indigo. But so far all we have are eReaders or computers for digital text. Therefor, it is down to the producers of the eReaders to adjust the technology so that there is not a decrease in understanding or retention of content. Publishers can then adjust the way they design an eBook by using the specs required for the unit. Maybe it’s about changing the way the “paper” looks, or adding a layered mechanism that allows a reader to turn a “page”, or incorporating better ways to be able to highlight and make marginal notes. Perhaps publishers and eReader designers can work together more to find solutions to better translate a physical object into a digital rendition.

That being said, companies like Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle are, like publishers, still making money from the sales of their products, so it’s hard to say how much they care either. But they probably should, because any eReader that people actually want to read from, study from or retain what it is they’re reading would probably soar ahead of the “traditional” models. Like the iMacs of the late ‘90s, eReaders are relatively young, so there is likely going to be a drastic shift in how eReaders are designed, which is good news for the people who want to actually understand and remember what it is they are reading.

One Reply to “Not the Publisher’s Problem”

  1. I find it interesting how at first you say that it’s not the publishers’ job to worry if people are reading deeply, because what they need to care about (and what they do care about) is the bottom line…but then at the end of your post, you say that publishers should care about the design of their ereaders because a better ereader would encourage reading. So are you saying that the device is more important to deep reading than the content?

    Couldn’t your final argument work for content as well? If we, as publishers, make content that people actually want to read, study, or retain information from, then would that content come out ahead of the rest?

Leave a Reply