Publishing Futures: Bright or Dim?

As we pour more and more resources into digital versions of our work, the question remains, will it attract audiences. Will people read books on their iPad / iPhones or just play games, watch movies and blog? While more than 45% of Australian bookstores reported a drop in sales over Christmas, digital sales, at least via POD (print on demand) are on the dramatic rise – at least overseas.

Recently, the Australian Government decided to STUDY these issues (short for delaying definitive action?) by setting up a BISG (Book Industry Study Group) to canvas industry opinion on where the industry is heading. I made two submissions to the Secretariat and have been invited to a workshop in Brisbane where doubtlessly some directed brainstorming will take place.

The bad news (perhaps) is that I’ll be in Tasmania on 22 Feb when the workshop is held, but I’m still keen to keep feeding information to the BISG in the hope that they will actually be able to prompt positive action from the Government sooner rather than later.

I’d love to hear some grassroots opinion on the subject, so please let me know your thoughts. They might even get passed on to the BISG!


4 thoughts on “Publishing Futures: Bright or Dim?

  1. People haven’t stopped reading (no, not even teenagers) but what they have stopped doing to a certain extent is reading lines of text in paper books. Bear in mind that the printed word was once the cutting edge of technology and entertainment, but has since been supplanted to some extent by modern entertainment media, social media and games. Books are also comparatively expensive in Australia for the amount of hours worth of entertainment they provide. A $30 book might take four hours to read, whereas an $80 video game might provide ten or twenty times more entertainment hours. These are two areas where ebooks can help to redress this problem: both in terms of technological convenience and reduced price compared to printed editions.

    • Yes, Guy, your comments are spot on, and not just with younger audiences. Screen based content is all around us, is easier to access than physical books, and more immersive. However, many people still prefer the physical book reading experience and won’t opt for an eBook unless the price is right or the physical book is hard to get. The key for publishers is to enhance the eBook experience with multimedia and social networking interactivity so the viewers / readers will find the digital version more attractive.

  2. Personally I have resisted moving to ebook readers for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I can never and will never be able to read ‘properly’ on a backlit monitor-type screen. This problem seems to have been solved by the likes of Kindle. Secondly, I want to see a significant price differential between the physical and electronic editions. This differential might be becoming more apparent now, but in recent years ebook editions have often been almost as expensive as their physical counterparts. I will continue to buy physical books, especially from small or boutique presses, but the day may be coming where I never buy a mass market paperback in hardcopy ever again.

    • There are a number of eInk devices out there besides the Kindle for people to choose from to avoid backlit text. And the more advanced Readers allow the viewer to set a lighting preference to avoid eye strain. It’s a technical problem that is being overcome, but certainly one that discourages people from buying text based eBooks. On the pricing issue, we tend to price our eBooks at about 50% of the physical book price. Certain online distributors like Amazon and Apple try to “guide” publishers into a pricing structure that makes eBooks attractive. It’s still a young market, and publishers are testing what works.

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