Swedish authors’ opinions on e-book publishing – a brief report



(Posted for Skans Kersti Nilsson)

Interviews have now been held with seventeen authors, including both those involved in e-book publishing and those not involved. The results contribute a wide range of experiences, attitudes and thoughts on e-book writing and publishing and, on the whole, attitudes toward the e-book phenomenon were mainly positive.

Authors, who had published e-books as part of their contract with a publisher, state that it was not a particular wish or request that their writing should be electronically published, but rather just a part of the contract with the publisher. A part they seemed to pay hardly any attention at all. It does not seem that the e-book publishing has affected these authors to any large extent. “The book sure has (made me more famous), but not the e-book per se.” They talk about it as a residual product, coming with the main product, the printed book. They explicitly claim that publishing their book in an e-book format has meant very little or nothing to them and that it has not affected them as writers.

Authors, who have not yet published an e-book, were of two categories. The first category consists of authors who, although having a high reputation among the critics and the intellectual establishment, were not offered a contract that included e-publishing their books even if they wanted to, because their books are not very profitable for the publisher. The other category simply do not express any advantages in reaching to get a bigger readership. Some of these authors produce non-fiction picture-books and lyrics to music, genres which are not easily transferable into e-formats.

Two authors had self-published e-books. They claim that they have seen e-book publishing as an opportunity to spread their word through tools that can reach many at a low cost. They have chosen to transform their printed books into e-book format and made available and promoted the digital books themselves. The driving force among these authors is definitely the possibility of spreading their word. A wish to spread their writing is quite clear, although the books might not be of any great interest to publishers. None of the self-publishers is interested in selling their e-book.

Concerning the translation of e-books into other languages, this appears to be reserved for popular fiction genres, mainly the so called “Swedish noir”. Self-publishing authors or authors with a Swedish focus in context would never think of translating their e-books to step into the global e-book market. Swedish authors available on Amazon.com are mainly available on the Kindle format. These authors’ productions are also managed by literary agents, working in the global market.

A fact that might affect both publishers and authors is the unpaid use of digital literature. On the one hand, there is piracy and illegal downloading; on the other hand, there are authors who deliberately make their books available for free. When talking about piracy, it is evident that the authors have not thought so much about it. Some say it is bad, some not, but they all agree on that it is difficult to do anything about it. Those who are strongly against, raise argument about authors and publishers depending on their income: “It is important that authors earn their living, and that goes for publishers too.”

Skans Kersti Nilsson

They’re watching you!


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Because all devices for reading e-books are computers and, in order to download, all are capable of connection to the Internet, the information you have on the device and the information you generate by using the device can, with the appropriate (and usually hidden) software, be sent back to the provider of the books. There was a considerable fuss some time ago when it was realised that Amazon could, remotely, remove all the books you had “bought” from your Kindle. Of course you hadn’t bought them, you had only licensed them – a crazy situation which is perpetuated because governments these days don’t like to tangle with big business. I imagine that Amazon uses this power only very occasionally and perhaps when someone fails to pay their bills – but the fact remains that the power is there.

Now we learn that if your device uses Adobe Digital Editions 4, information on how you are using the individual book is being sent back to Adobe. The amazing thing is that it was doing this “in clear”, i.e., as ordinary, readable text and numbers. This means that, not only is Adobe collecting information on the e-books you have bought, it is also collecting information on the e-books you have borrowed from the library, if your reader uses Adobe’s software.

The American Library Association is, naturally, up in arms about this, since the practice clearly negates the libraries’ promise of anonymity for its readers and, so the ALA reports, it also suggests that the practice infringes the privacy laws of a number of states in the USA.

In today’s “surveillance society” what we find out about infringements of privacy often turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg: how many more e-book providers are surreptitiously monitoring what we read and how we read – and why does Adobe or anyone else need to know?

Update: the debate continues and MIT recommends using an earlier version of ADE.

Survey of Lithuanian publishers


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[Posted by Tom Wilson for Elena Maceviciute]

A team of Lithuanian researchers led by Dr. Arūnas Gudinavičius has conducted a survey of Lithuanian publishers using a questionnaire similar to that employed in Sweden and Croatia. This will enable us to produce a comparative analysis of publishers‘ opinions from all three countries.
This survey was financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. Its main goal was to increase understanding of the situation of e-books production in Lithuania by answering questions on the following topics:

What is the size of e-book production in Lithuania?
What are the factors that affect publishing of e-books in Lithuania at present and in the near future as understood by Lithuanian publishers?
What are the perceptions of Lithuanian publishers about the influence of traditional publishing cycle actors (authors, bookshops, libraries) on e-book publishing?

Almost half of active Lithuanian publishers took part in the survey and 73 questionnaires (out of 143) were returned. Thirty percent of those who responded publish e-books, but only six publishers have published a significant number of titles (from 200 to 500 e-book titles a year).
Publishers do not expect rapid and significant growth of e-book market in Lithuania in the near future. The biggest hindrance to the growth is a small size of the market and the lack of an export market for Lithuanian e-books. The demand of users for a portable and convenient format and the use of new technologies in the educational system are the two biggest drivers in the development of e-book production. On the other hand, the user preference for traditional printed books is seen as one of the barriers to further development.

The analysis of the relationship to the roles and influence of other actors also shows some confusion and controversy in the opinions of the publishers. Self-publishing by authors is not seen as a big threat to publishers in general, but 62 percent of the respondents think that there is a need to develop their own self-publishing channel.

The websites of publishers and other vendors are perceived as the most important distribution channel. Most of the respondents agree that the role of bookshops will diminish with the increase of e-book publishing. On the other hand 62 percent of them think that bookshops will sell both e-books and paper books and half of the respondents agree that Internet sales will not be the only alternative in e-book distribution. The role of academic and public libraries is not seen as important in the development of e-book production, but 20 percent of respondents think that libraries should not provide access to e-books. However, most of the respondents (80 percent) acknowledge that libraries are important disseminators of e-books and the majority (65 percent) supports the idea that e-books should be sold to libraries for the same price as for other users, though limitations on loans should be introduced (56 percent).

The team of researchers is working on the report of the survey that will be published in a digital format and introduced to the publishers and wider public in a seminar on December 16, 2014.

Prof. Elena Maceviciute

E-textbooks and reading

While e-books continue to take up between 20 and 25 percent of the market in countries such as the USA, the UK, Australia and India, in other countries the proportions are much lower, for example, in France they accounted for only 4.1% of the market in 2013; so, globally, the average is rather meaningless. The sectoral differences are also significant: in countries where the proportion is around the 25% level, the focus is on what we might call the ‘consumer’ market, i.e., sales of the novels and popular non-fiction such as biographies; but around the world the e-textbook market seems to be the growing part of the business, with national and regional governments and school districts implementing policies on the introduction of e-textbooks.

It is, perhaps, this development that makes studies of e-book reading somewhat premature. Various investigations have found that students prefer print books to e-books and that learning from print books is more effective. However, if e-textbooks are widely introduced into the school systems, world wide, the probability is that learning from such tools will become the norm, without the competition from the printed word. When 5- to 8-year olds are ‘digital natives’ in this respect, is it not likely that they will happily learn from e-textbooks when they enter secondary and, later, higher education? At present, we have no way to check this hypothesis: the study can only be done when present 5- to 8-year olds who have used e-books throughout their school career are aged 15 or 16. And, as the number of primary school children using only e-textbooks is not known, we have no idea when that might be.

However, an article in the Australian Daily Telegraph noted, regarding the introduction of e-books at St Pius X College in Chatswood, near Sydney:

e-learning co-ordinator Justin Hodges said the vast majority of older students from Years 9 to 12 preferred paper versions while younger students in Years 7 and 8 preferred digital formats.

We know that the human mind is an incredibly flexible thing, capable of adapting to almost any situation, and the probability that it will remain resolutely opposed to learning from e-books seems to me to be extraordinarily unlikely.

Survey on e-book reading in the field


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Posted for Annika Bergström

Within the next few days, 3,400 people in Sweden will receive the national SOM survey including questions about e-book reading and a comparison between e-book and print book functions.

The SOM survey (Society, Opinion and Media) is an annual, representative survey to people in Sweden between the ages of 16 and 85 years conducted since 1986. Since 2012, the E-book project has posed questions about e-book reading, fiction and non-fiction, and attitudes towards e-books. In the 2014 survey, put in the field on September 24th, this question is accompanied by a question about functions of e-books and printed books. The aim has been to replicate a question from the Pew Internet surveys presented in the report The rise of e-reading:

Which is better for these purposes, a printed book or an e-book? Reading with a child, Sharing books with other people, Reading books in bed, Having a wide selection of books to choose from, Reading books while traveling or commuting, Being able to get a book quickly.

The results will be made available to the E-book Research Group by the end of February and presented in the annual SOM publication in June 2015.

In the 2013 survey, attitudes were measured by the following issues:
Screen Shot 09-29-14 at 04.23 PM

An initial analysis written by Annika Bergström and Lars Höglund is available in Swedish on the SOM Institute Web page.

Current activity


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It is a while since we had anything specifically on the eBooks in Sweden research project, so here’s an update. We have now completed the survey of publishers in Sweden, and colleagues in Croatia and Lithauania have replicated the investigation there, so we now have some comparable data from other ‘small language market’ countries. The survey of booksellers in Sweden has also been completed, and interviews with authors are in progress – we hope to have completed these by the end of Autumn. Next year will see us exploring higher education and the impact of the e-book in the Swedish school system, and we shall have to begin preparation of the monograph on the research which we promised Vetenskapsrådet to deliver.

The three-country publishr survey revealed an interesting uniformity of opinion among publishers in the three countries: we don’t yet have a paper on this, but we’ll have a presentation at the 2nd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts in Pula, Croatia, in December. As a small illustration of the data, below is a table showing the opinions of publishers in the three countries on relationships with public libraries:

Screen Shot 09-19-14 at 03.21 PM

The yellow shading shows that publishers in the three countries respond in a very similar way to the issues presented.

We’ll have more on this when the presentation for the Pula conference is ready. If anyone from a ‘small language market’ would be interested in using the questionnaire in their own country, please get in touch with me at tom.wilson@hb.se

Other work has been reported quite extensively – here are references to papers you may not have seen:

Balling, G., Dahl, T.A., Mangen, A., Nilsson, S.K., Lund, H. & Höglund, L. (2014).
E-bogen. Skandinaviske perspektiver på forskning og uddannelse
. [E-books. Scandinavian perspective on research and education.] Nordisk Tidsskrift for Informationsvidenskab og Kulturformidling, No. 1.

Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2014). E-boken: möjligheter och hinder. [E-books: opportunities and obstacles.] In Annika Bergström andHenrik Oscarsson, (Eds.). Mittfåra & marginal. Henrik Oscarsson and Annika Bergström, (Eds.). Vägskal. (pp. 357-367). (SOM-rapport nr 61).

Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2014). A national survey of early adopters of e-book reading in Sweden. Information Research, 19(2) paper 621.

Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2013). Tidiga läsare ave e-böcker. [Early readers of e-books]. In Lennart Weibull, Henrik Oscarsson and Annika Bergström, (Eds.). Vägskal. (pp. 357-367). Gothenburg: Gothenburg University, SOM Institute.

Konrad, Katherine. (2013). Old habits in a new world? E-book management techniques at an academic library. Unpublished Master’s thesis. University of Borås, Borås, Sweden

Kuzminiene, Ramune. (2014). E-books in Irish university libraries: changes and challenges in collection development and acquisitions. Unpublished Master’s thesis. University of Borås, Borås, Sweden.

Maceviciute E. & Borg, M. (2013). The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden. Libellarium, 6(1-2), 3-12.

Maceviciute E. & Wilson T.D. The e-book phenomenon in Sweden. Paper presented at the Publishing studies conference “By the book: the book and the study of its digital transformation”, 23-24 May, 2014, Vila Finaly, Florence, Italy. [PowerPoint presentation-]

Maceviciute, E., Borg, M., Kuzminiene R. & Konrad, K. (2014). The acquisition of e-books in the libraries of the Swedish higher education institutions. Information Research, 19(2) paper 620.

Maceviciute E., Nilsson, K., Wilson, T., Bergström, A. and Höglund, L. (2014). The case of the e/book in “small language” culture: media technology and the digital society. Knygotyra, 62, 73-93.

Nilsson, S.K. (2014). Reading in changing society. Some impact in the Swedish context. In M. Lauristin and Vihalemm, P. (Eds.). Reading in changing society. (pp. 118-132).  Tartu, Estonia: University of Tartu Press.

Wallin, Birgitta and Maceviciute, Elena (2014). Main actors in provision of fiction e-books in a small language market: a Swedish case. Poster presented at ELPUB2014. Let’s put data to use: digital scholarship for the next generation, 18th International Conference on Electronic Publishing 19-20 June 2014, Thessaloniki,

Wilson, T.D. (2014). The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology Information Research, 19(2) paper 612.

Zemaityte, Justina (2014). Skaitmeninės knygos galimybės ir grėsmės: rašytojų nuomonė ir patirtys. [Opportunities and threats of digital books: writers’ opinions and experiences]. Unpublished Bachelor’s thesis. Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania.

ELPUB 2014 – Let’s put data to use: digital scholarship for the next generation – June 19-20, 2014 – Thessaloniki, Greece.

Posted by Tom Wilson for Birgitta Wahlin

On the first day key note speaker Herbert Van de Sompel presented Towards Robust Linking and Referencing for Web-Based Scholarly Communication – a much-needed feature, given the extent of Web-based publication of scholarly papers. Peter Linde librarian from Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden, presented a paper, written with colleagues working on the EU RECODE Project on how libraries and other academic institutions engage in making data open. He pointed to the key issue of financing such developments and noted that universities need to budget for the storage and curation of data, as well as for training, and that additional funding was unlikely without some national mandate, requiring universities to undertake the role.

The implementation of The European Commission recommendation on open access to scientific information. Comparison of national policies, opportunities and risks for academic publishing in non-English speaking countries was presented by Lisiane Lomazzi and Ghislaine Chartron. The authors point to the fact that the EU’s recommendations have not led to any consistency in how countries approach the delivery of open access to the scholarly literature. They find that ten countries have no policy, four are in a consultative process to develop policy, six rely upon the funding agency to develop and implement policy, and in four countries different agency have developed policies that are either coordinated or in need of coordination.

Ben De Meester and his colleagues from Ghent University, Belgium, presented a paper on A digital-first authoring environment for enriched e-books using EPUB 3. The project was carried out with a publishing company in Belgium. De Meester said that it is hard to make cost effective e-books as the print version always comes first using layout programmes suitable for print books. Using EPUB 3 and html5, javascript and CSS would make it possible to adapt a text both for reading on various devices such as smart phones and tablet computers, and for print.

EPISCIENCES an overlay publication platform was presented by Maud Medves and Gaelle Riveraux. And then it was time for poster presentations and I presented The Swedish e-book research project and my research. I also told the audience that more information can be found at our blog and that we have a Flipboard Magazine on e-book news (available for IOS and Android devices).

My poster was a very simple illustration of the factors that affect decision making in relation to e-book publication.


On the second day key note speaker Mahendra Mahey from the British Library talked about How the British Library’s Digital Scholarship department is putting data to use for researchers through its Digital research Team and British Library Labs project. After a short break we went on to a Panel Discussion about the web, and digitial publishing etc.

Birgitta Wallin

By the Book: the book and the study of its digital transformation, publishing studies conference. Villa Finaly, Florence, Italy, 23. and 24 May 2014


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Posted by Tom Wilson for Elena Maceviciute

A conference on the ancient subject of book studies took place in a suitably romantic Florentine villa on the outskirts of Florence. It was a surprise to discover that it belongs to a the Sorbonne Paris Cité Université. A summer school for publishing students from all over Europe had just taken place and they were taught by a team of English, French, Slovenian, and German teachers. Some of both stayed to take part in the conference By the Book.

Some 40 researchers and scholars came together from several European countries and South Africa to talk about books. However, there was little talk of history; mostly the future of the book was discussed in the light of present events and turbulent changes in publishing. Most were researching the field of publishing studies, but there were some from reading and library studies.

Elena with the conference organizers

Elena with the conference organizers

Quite a lot of attention was paid to the digital phenomena intruding into all sectors of book production and transforming the traditional book trade. Alexis Weedon (University of Bedfordshire) presented the disruptive effects of e-books on production of books and outlined further possibilities of the development of enhanced e-books. Claudio Pires Franco (University of Bedfordshire) took this topic even further looking into creation of a typology for e-books on the continuum axis from “traditional book” to story based games. Laura Dietz (Anglia Ruskin University) explored the feelings and experiences of users comparing e-books and printed books. Louis Wiart (Sorbonne Paris Cité Université) looked into the evolution of readers’ communication about books online and social reading developments in France. Yours truly provided a short account of the e-books project emphasising the latest empirical findings from the survey of Swedish publishers. Frania Hall (London College of Communication) immersed the publishing studies into the wider context of creative industries and examined their structures and influence of digital technologies on their convergence. Stevie Marsden (Stirling University) talked of the experience of dealing with books and e-books or/and e-copies of printed books in the selection process by literary award organizations. It seems that literary judges are affected by the physicality of the book and see more cultural value in printed books than in e-books

There were many interesting presentations on the situation of printed publishing production as well, though very few managed avoiding digital aspects altogether. Mary Ann Kernan (City University London) presented a fascinating case study of Arden Shakespeare scholarly editions series published by Methuen from the beginning to the present. Melanie Radarshan-Bold (Loughborough University) talked about an investigation of Midland publishers in the UK, and Daniel Boswell (Anglia Ruskin University) painted a picture of the troubled history of Catalan publishing troubled history, which reminded me of the Lithuanian historical situation to some extent. Iain Stevenson (University College London) demonstrated lovely book tokens and talked about their history. Nick Canty (University College London) provided a fascinating account of bibliotherapy that was one of my passions when I was still a student. What a superb remedy for all ailments – a book. Heiko Hartmann (HTWK, Leipzig) explored the possibilities of the publishers to build their competitiveness on exploiting the functions of books that cannot be replicated in the digital environment (e.g., aesthetic satisfaction, prestige of ownership, etc.). Rachel Noorda (University of Stirling) concentrated on books as souvenirs in tourism and the heritage book market, dealing not only with publishing, but also with exploitation of stereotypes and symbols in the tourism business.

It's not all work

It’s not all work

An amazing presentation by Anke Vogel and Corinna Norrick-Ruhl (Mainz Institute for Book Studies) dealt with the issues of the printing industry’s impact on the environment. They presented the overall situation and green publishers of children’s books in Germany, and some comparison of environmental impact of printed an digital books. To my greatest surprise they did not know of Swedish investigations by the Royal Institute of Technology.

As the gathering was composed mainly of university lecturers, no wonder that quite many of them were discussing educational issues. Rose Leighton (Hogeschool van Amsterdam) presented an idea of a shared learning objects repository for publishing and book studies during the very first session. Two very interesting papers were presented by Liam Borgstrom and Elisabeth le Roux (University of Pretoria). The first talked about teaching publishing courses using the metaphor of architecture. The latter provided a broad picture of publishing business in South Africa as well as the formation of publishing studies within the Department of Information Science. Ausra Navickiene (Vilnius University) introduced the Lithuanian system of publishing studies at the Faculty of Communication in Vilnius. Despite problems with a computer, her presentation invited interest and the possibilities of publishing doctoral studies at Vilnius University were envied by many participants. Anna Faherty (Kingston University) presented a paper on the educational methods designed to strengthen student-centred studies and the responsibility of the students for their own learning.

Finally, some methodological issues were presented and discussed by the participants. Sophie Noël (Université Paris Cité) presented a social science approach to publishing studies that in France comprise the history of book, cultural economy and some art disciplines. From Croatia, Zoran Velagić (University of Osijek) and Franjo Pehar (University of Zadar) talked about methodological approaches to modern publishing and identified three discourses: physical book that you can hug and sniff is dead; practical discourse of the markets; academic discourse that is difficult to define. Benoît Berthou (Sorbonne Paris Cité Université) presented a paper by his absent colleague Bertrand Legendre on a socio-economic approach to book industry research in France.

There was enough time to discuss the presentations in sessions and during breaks and overall impression is that there are very few research areas as exciting as publishing studies in modern social science and humanities.

Swedish publishers’ views on e-books


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We have recently completed a survey of 198 publishing firms in Sweden who are members of either the Swedish Publishers’ Association or the Nordic Independent Publishers’ Association. One hundred and ten companies responded, giving a response rate of 55%, with the smaller companies (often consisting of only one or two persons) less likely to respond. The resulting data can be compared with that of ‘Global e-book. A report on market trends and developments’ (2013), which surveyed members of only the Swedish Publishers’ Association. ‘Global e-book’ reported, for example, a total of some 4,500 e-books having been published, while our estimate is a total of over 10,000, with a significant number of firms producing fewer than ten e-books, but with three or four producing more than 2,000. We also see shifts of different kinds, e.g., one company reports that all of its output is published in print and in electronic format, while another reports having started with e-book production, but turning to printed book production because, ‘We make no money from e-books’.

The dominant e-book format is EPUB, often together with PDF, with other formats having been used by only a small number of firms.

The majority of respondents expressed the opinion that the growth in the market for e-books would continue to be as slow as at present, seeing the main barrier to growth as being the readers’ preference for printed books. On the other hand, they saw the main stimulus for growth as being the readers’ preference for a convenient, portable format. The main influence on publishers’ policies with regard to e-books was seen to be the public library user. This is not surprising, given that public libraries in Sweden constitute the major part of the market for books in general and for e-books in particular. If the present problems associated with the eLib platform can be resolved and a new model for e-lending, which satisfies all parties, can be devised, the e-lending element of the market will probably attain even greater significance. (Data from the Royal Library show that e-loans in public libraries have risen from 183,000 in 2008 to 1,524,234 in 2013.)

Self-publishing has reached ‘interesting’ proportions in the USA, and respondents were asked what effect this might have on their own activities. The result is shown in the figure below.


A degree of ambivalence seems to exist about the relations between publishers and booksellers and between publishers and public libraries, in respect of e-books. Fifty percent of respondents felt that bookshops would continue to play a role in selling both printed books and e-books, but, at the same time (respondents could choose more than one option) some 60% believed that the role of the bookshop would decline as e-book sales increased, and more than 50% believed that direct selling by publishers would also contribute to the decline.

In relation to libraries, more than 60% thought that e-books ought to be sold to them on the same basis as printed books, but more than 50% (again, more than one choice was allowed) thought that the number of loans ought to be restricted and almost 50% thought that e-books ought to be priced higher to libraries than to individual readers.

The survey has been useful in establishing the current state of opinion on these matters and we plan further interviews with publishers who have agreed to participate to gain further, detailed information on the reasons for their views. We also plan to re-run the survey before the end of the project, to see how opinions may have shifted over a couple of years.

A report on the survey will be sent out next week to the respondents and, once that is done, it will be available to others in Swedish or English. I shall be posting an announcement about its availability but, if you wish to be sure of receiving a copy, please e-mail me (tom.wilson@hb.se) stating whether you would like the Swedish or the English version.

The “News on e-books” Flipboard magazine


Just over a year ago I started a Flipboard “magazine” – accessible to those with an iPad or other tablet device. I was joined by Elena Maceviciute in curating the magazine and between us we manage to cover most European languages (Finnish, Estonian, Greek and Hungarian being the missing ones!) We didn’t imagine, then, that by today we would have more than 30,000 readers of the magazine. But that’s the situation. Moreover, I discovered, quite accidentally, that you can also access the magazine through your desktop browser, by clicking on this link. The contents of the magazine consist almost entirely of news items from around the world, with an occasional document in html – Flipboard does not, at present, allow the incorporation of pdf or doc files. The system is not perfect for a digital archive, since at present, it is not possible to search within an individual magazine. Perhaps that will happen at some point.


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