PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IN TRANSITION
With the current digital revolution, traditional publishing industry has hit its hard times (Cincinati, 2011). Blogger Clay Shirky (2009) similarly affirms that “It makes increasingly less sense to even talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves – the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public – has stopped being a problem”. The industry’s tragedy was claimed towards the birth of digital and networked media. Digital and network media has thus transformed traditional publishing industry. This essay, on one hand, investigates the impact of e-books (i.e. Kindle, iPad) as modern digital devices that forces out the market of printing industry. Similarly, weblogs, other open publishing sites etc, are argued to distort the vivid category of ‘professional publishers’. On the other hand, while these contemporary media’s platforms have partially prevailed the mature printing business, their associated disadvantages prevent them from becoming a perfect substitute of traditional publishing industry. Thus it is argued that publishing industry is not being replaced, but rather incorporating with new technology to improve their productivity.
In the past, content was a main focus, not a method of distribution. Publishing industry was very restricted with only involvement of authorized publishers. The modes of distribution and aggregating would be a responsibility of industry or government. Few dominated organizations such as News Ltd, Penguin books, etc maximize the ‘top-down’ approach to control broadcasting platforms. However, these models have been in the process of changes. Main focus for publishing business models tends to be about leveraging distribution and aggregation and less about producing content as books are not constantly ‘edited’ as they used to since the mid 1990s (Murphie & Fuller 2011). Therefore, the market of publishing industry has been sunken by newly digital and networked media. This notion coincides with media lecturer Jeff Gomez (2008, p.3)’s declaration in ‘Print is dead: books in our digital age’, that “books are indeed on the way out, while screen inching their way in”. Although, books are still around, print is unquestionably appalling. People are turning to computers and Internet as a preferred source of information than traditional reading method. Gomez (2008) then emphasizes that ‘the general population is shifting away from print consumption, heading instead to increasingly digital lives”. Evidence is shown in the ‘Digital Natives’ kids who have grown up with Internet and been interacting with the world through mouse clicks. Print media such as books, magazines, newspaper would be their last resources. Google searching is more preferred than going to library, and print seems more expensive, uninteresting and time-consuming (Gomez 2008, p.4). Consequently, printed materials are less consumed. In ‘Newspaper Printing or Publishing in Australia – Industry Market Research Report’, revenue of the Australian Newspaper Publishing Industry is forecasted to decrease at an average annualized real rate of 3.7% in the five years through 2009-10. The declining trend of the printed newspapers’ circulation is also confirmed as most of news proliferates and their advertising is migrated to internet. Especially, this is a tragedy of book printing business. The author of ‘Publishing in Hard Times’ article, Peter Jovanovich (2009), states that sales are stagnated or decreasing in most parts of trade, scientific, technical and medical, and school publishing. Books that can’t be sold will be returned to the publishers and get destroyed. This problem has been haunting the publishing business (Neary 2010). Therefore, within few years, digital and networked media have taken away substantial market share of traditional publishing industry in the competition to make information available to the public.
E-books are most recognizable illustration to answer a question of how those powerful devices can dismantle a well-established industry in a short-time period. The launch of e-books serves as a ‘wake-up’ call for the print publishing industry (Naughton 2010). This revolution is happening with fast pace. Within less than three years, it was the traditional e-books which only transfer the texts from normal print to a digital device, then enhanced e-books (i.e. iPads) which embed videos and other animated interfaces, and applications for books are released. Now, there are number of different enhanced readers available (Neary 2010). It is an exploding market that directly competes with traditional prints. The convenience of those digital devices largely improves users’ readership. While readers may postpone the acquisition of some books due to various obstacles in their purchasing process, buying a digital version of same information is often unchallenged with e-readers (Osnos 2010). This handiness is highlighted in many journalists’ argument towards e-books, such that of Naughton (2010) “it is easier and more pleasant to read on iPad than its printed counterpart and much nicer than the Kindle edition of magazine. The iPad has delivered a genuinely ‘immersive’ reading experience”. E-books also simplify the editing process for many authors when making information public because Kindles allow them to convert and format their stories and books themselves to ensure e-format is available for their versions (Steve 2010). These advantages of e-Books are understandable reasons of the increasing their preference over printed editions.
Weblogs, and open publishing sites are other cases that make the “difficulty, complexity and expense of making something available to the public’ become unproblematic. Networked media has diminished the role of traditional publishers through the blurring categories between authors and readers. This is followed by a quoted from Jovanovich (2009, p.70) “The future is ‘frictionless publishing, seamlessly connecting author and reader … The existential question for publishers is whether or not they are needed in an Internet era.”. Journalists have been questioning whether there will always be publishers (Naughton 2010). Networked platforms that run open publishing software allow any one with Internet access to visit the site and upload content directly without penetrating the filters of traditional media. Since anyone can publish from these freely accessible sites, we can simultaneously perform several roles of authors, publishers and readers. In addition, Meredith Nelson (2006, p.6)’s article ‘The Blog Phenomenon and The Book Publishing Industry’ indicates that weblogs are new method for outsiders who often face barriers of entry to traditional publishing world due to lack of connections to participate in this sector. Moreover, the importance of publishing industry is further devalued since these networked media enable the possibility for readers to self-assemble their selected material in an individually designed publication. Media theorist Sandra E. Moriarty (1983, p.16) points out in ‘New Technology: A review’s of What’s up, What’s in and What’s out’ that “when every home and business is equipped with its all-purpose multi-function computer terminal with screen and printer, newspaper and magazines stories, etc can be transmitted directly to the home for either electronic viewing or printed reading”. Therefore, networked media enables direct interaction between authors and audiences thus ‘de-intermediate’ involvement of expensive publishing industry.
Although there are range of benefits offered digital and networked media hat may dismantle share of traditional publishing industry, there are still disadvantages that prevent these new technology to completely outrage its original competitor. Economists may perceive Apple’s absolute control of the media’s distribution as dangerously monopolistic power in the industry. Apple’s dominated position in the consumption of music and mobile software through its iTunes’ application limit developers in creation for media’s devices. If Apple continues to dominate book distribution through iPads, independent writers and their content would be disadvantaged. Ipads will be accompanied by launch deals from major traditional publishers when there are opportunities to promote independent e-book publishing (Kirn 2010). Thus this dominant control enables Apple to control its e-books’ prices at will as Apple’s device is the only way to access to academic content. This monopolistic power is undesired in a healthy economy. There must be traditional printed media to balance the competitive force in the industry. Moreover, digital and networked media are believed to reduce the authority of professionalism by encouraging readers’ comments and writers’ responses. Excessive information’s transparency would result in information’s unreliability. Thus printed publishers believe the digital publishers destroy the print model through “carelessness and overly optimistic decision-making” (Sims 2010). If a community reader requires authentic information, Wiki-publishing is inadequate. Thus, the value of publishing should not be underestimated (Jovanovich 2009, p.71). Finally, digital and networked media are not widely applied in less developed countries, such as South Africa, etc because of their under-developed infrastructure and other civilization’s matters (Bhaskar 2009). Thus, traditional publishing industry still stands strong in those countries. For the above disadvantages of digital and networked media, it is argued that publishing industry cannot be entirely replaced. Rebekah Bromley and Dorothy Bowles (1995, p.15) support this argument “some research suggest that alternative explanations that would allow new technology to coexist with existing media, rather than bringing about the demise or radical alternation of traditional media”. Because people love books, computer is not going to substitute for books in the hearts or minds of anybody. It is a ludicrous idea that books would become rarer until they are finally erased from existence (Gomez 2008, p.13). The essence that readers get to decide the means by which they will access the book does not mean there will not be printed books. Books become part of everyone’s lives. The sale of digital devices will support the sales of books (Osnos 2010).
To continue their existence in this digital environment, traditional publishing industry must adjust its business models and practices to incorporate with digital and networked media. Print publishers who wish to thrive in the new environment will not just have to learn new tricks but will also have to tool up their in-house technological competencies to improve their publishing skills. They should further encompass all the ways in which they consumer might want to read a book. Many media consultants and publishing executives advise that publishers should “embrace the values of the Internet” (Jovanovich 2009, p.70). Print must adapt to Web economies as a platform to deliver optimal results. Google-like model of source-agnostic content aggregation that is tuned to the needs of individual audiences is recommended. Publisher should also offer some services that enable users to print any collection of content from whatever source, in whatever form, with whatever quantity that suits them best (Murphie & Fuller 2011). Jenna Worthham (2010) suggests that “the goal is not standalone application but to enable other hardware and software platforms”. The move by newspapers and magazines to make their material freely available on the Web has saved millions on the costs of printing and distributing their publications (Stone 2009). Many book publishers are launching their own blogs because of various new and important opportunities including the ability to connect and communicate with niche audiences that are deeply interested in their books (Nelson 2006, p.3). Blogs allow publishers to monitor trends about their books through viewers’ comments, and editors to identify the most interesting and unique new voices in the blogosphere. Furthermore, publishers can access previously untapped communities of readers, and access influential communicators and business people that spread information about books through their blogs. Thus, blogs are opening new, low-cost channels for book publicity and advertising that are being utilized by many traditional media outlets to increase their books’ sales.
In conclusion, the digital shifts are being felt by many publishers. Digital and networked media have not only dismantled market’s share of traditional publishing industry, but also diminished its long-standing role in the society. Although this is an obvious threat to traditional media, it is concluded that traditional publishing industry would not be entirely replaced. Rather these threats are driving forces for new improvements within this sector. The publishing industry has to change for survival. Digital and networked media would be utilized as complementary tool to maintain their books’ sales. Therefore, communities are looking forwards a more flexible publishing industry in the future.
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