A typology of content creation, production, distribution and use



Discussions at the ePub conference in Zadar last week prompted me to think about the terminology of the field at a point where the meaning of virtually every significant term in the publishing industry is becoming very fluid. For example, with the arrival of the e-book, the question of what constitutes a ‘book’ arises: some suggest that the future book may be more like an electronic game than a printed book. With the increased possibility of ‘self-publishing’, and with organizations of all kinds getting into the business of issuing e-books, the notion of ‘publisher’ is fluid. Even ‘reader’ is not without its problems, since we generally use the term to signify ‘book reader’ and today, many people read blogs and discussion lists without ever going anywhere near a printed book or e-book.

It seems, therefore, that the time is right for a typology that, at its highest level, dispenses with the terms traditionally used. The question is, of course, what are the alternatives that could be used. I considered ‘media’ as a possibility, but, apart from the growing tendency to use the word as a singular noun, it has tended by be used to signify modern forms of media, such as films and television. Consequently, ‘content’ is my preferred terms, since it is relatively free of those kinds of associations and is also quite abstract.

My proposition, therefore, is that a typology using a facet structure might be formed out of the terms:

content creator;
content producer;
content distributor;
content user

At the next level, content creator would include:

printed book author
e-book author
blog writer
discussion list contributor
film script writer
TV programme writer
etc., etc.

Content producer would include:

printed book publisher
e-book publisher
magazine publisher
film production company
TV production company
TV news programme
radio network
Website owner
etc., etc.

Content producer would probably also need some additional facets, e.g.,

Content editor
Content designer

Content production process (e.g., print production, or digital production)
Content container (e.g., digital download file, DVD, CD, USB file, etc.)

Content distributor would include:

on-line bookseller
public library
academic library
subscription service (e.g., Scribd or Skoobe)
publisher (who distributes from own Website)
newspaper company
TV company
radio network
individual (e.g., self-published author who distributions from own Website)

It might also be useful to have a facet for

Content distribution channel, which would include, for example:

digital download site
physical distribution and delivery network (e.g., Royal Mail, DPD, etc.)

Content user would include:

reader – one who reads any kind of content acquired personally. Subcategories might be needed such as:

book reader
e-book reader
newspaper reader
TV news viewer
radio listener
library user
subscription service user

The top-level typology would then look like:

  • Content creator
  • Content producer
    • Content editor
    • Content designer
    • Content production process
    • Content container
  • Content distributor
    • Content distribution channel
  • Content user
  • The typology presented here has no intention of being exhaustive – additional facets and/or sub-facets may well be found necessary, but it has the advantage of being expansible along with the advantage of being hospitable to existing concepts. Some facets might need to be repeated, e.g., content designer could be a top-level facet, since that role, today, is often outsourced by content producers, and independent designers are also used by self-published authors. It is also clear that some actors might be represented in more than one channel depending on the role, e.g., the Swedish media company Bonnier is a content designer (e.g., through its service for self-publishing), a content producer (as a book, magazine and e-book publisher), and a content distributor (e.g., through its proposed e-book subscription service, BookBeat).

    My ideas benefited from discussions with Elena Maceviciute and Kersti Nilsson, en route from Zadar to Munich.

The Research Group in Spain



Last week we all went off to Torrevieja (which has so many Swedish inhabitants it might be called “little Sweden”!) to work collaboratively on the monograph we have promised the Ventskapsrådet at the end of the project. Such a “writing week” is, apparently, a fairly normal practice among academics in Sweden – and possibly elsewhere for all I know.

We worked collaboratively on the overall structure of the book and the individual chapters, pulled together papers and reports we’d already written and wrote new material on a variety of topics. Anyone who has looked at the publications list in the previous post will realise that the availability of such a body of work makes the writing of a book, if not easy, then at least a less-fraught enterprise.

On Thursday we went to Murcia – about an hour away from Torrevieja – to give a presentation on the project. As an honorary PhD of the University of Murcia, I was very honoured that the event was billed as the first in a “Meet our honorary doctors” series. The event was chaired by the Vice-Rector for Communication and Culture, Mónica Galdana Pérez Morales, and the Rector, Professor Jose Orihuela Calatayud, joined us for an excellent lunch at a nearby 18th century palacio, the Torre de Zoco, the picture below (by Lars Höglund) shows the happy post-lunch faces.


An updated list of publications from the project



Research papers

Gudinavičius, A., Šuminas, A. & Maceviciute, E. (2015). E-book publishing in Lithuania: the publisher‘s perspective. Information Research, 20(2), paper 672. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-2/paper672.html

Macevičiūtė, E. (2015). Conference report: International Conference ‘Publishing Trends and Contexts 2014, Focus: Digital Authors and Electronic Books’, 8-9 December, 2014, Pula, Croatia.Information Research, 20(1), paper 653. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-1/paper653.html

Maceviciute, E., Wallin, B., Nilsson, S.K. (2015). Book selling and e-books in Sweden. Libellarium, 8(1), 15-29. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/211/303
Maceviciute, E.; Borg, M.; Kuzminiene, R. y Konrad, K. La adquisición de los libros electrónicos en las bibliotecas de los centros de enseñanza superior de Suecia. Anales de Documentación, 18(1). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/analesdoc.18.1.224341

Nilsson, S.K., Maceviciute, E., Wilson, T.D., Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2015). The tensions of e-book creation and distribution in a small-language culture. Northerns Lights: Film & Media Studies Yearbook, 13, 29-47.

Wilson, T.D. (2015). E-books: the publishers’ dilemma. Libellarium, 8(1), 5-13. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/210/298

Presentations in conferences and seminars

Bergström, A., and Höglund, L. (2015). E-books – in the shadow of print. In NordMedia Conference, Division 5, Session 7, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, August 13-15, 2015.

Bergström, A., Höglund, L., Maceviciute, E. och Wilson, T.D. (2015). Vem älskar e-böcker: seminariet på Digitala Torget i Göteborgs Bokmässan, 24 september, 2015. Programm på http://www.bokmassan.se/en/programme/participants-2015/?person=114255

Maceviciute, E. (2015). Publishers’ dilemma and trouble for librarians. In Nordic E-book Conference “Scholarly e-books in your native language – Why, why not or when?”, October 1-2, 2015, DFFU, Copenhagen. Retrieved from http://www.dfdf.dk/images/2015_-_Scholarly_e-books/Elena.pdf

Maceviciute, E. and Wilson, T.D. (2015). Ebooks in academic libraries – the Swedish perspective. In International Symposium “By the Book: Books and Reading in the Age of Media Overload”, Florence, June 18-19, 2015.

Maceviciute E. and Nelhans, G. (forthcoming). Examining research literature on e-books: quantitative and qualitative approach. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.

Nilsson, K. (forthcoming). Authors opinions about e-book. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.

Wilson, T.D. (forthcoming). Theoretical approaches to e-book research. In 3rd International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia, 20th November, 2015.


Holmstedt, Linn och Topelius, Stefanie. (2015). E-böckernas vilkor: en fallstudie av biblioteken i Solentuna. Borås: Högskolan i Borås (supervisor E. Maceviciute).


Balling, G., Dahl, T.A., Mangen, A., Nilsson K., Lund, H. and Höglund L. (2014) E-bogen. Skandinaviske perspektiver på forskning og uddannelse. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Informationsvidenskab og Kulturformidling, 3(1), 5-19.

Bergström, A. & Höglund, L. (2014). A national survey of early adopters of e-book reading in Sweden. Information Research, 19(2) paper 621. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper621.html

Bergström, Annika och Höglund, Lars (2014) E-boken: möjligheter och hinder. I Bergström, Annika och Oscarsson, Henrik (red). Mittfåra & marginal. (pp. 239-252), Göteborg: SOM-institutet, Göteborgs universitet. (SOM-rapport nr 61).

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. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper620.html

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, Skans Kersti. (2014). Reading in changing society: Some impact in the Swedish context. In Lauristin, M. and Vihalemm P. (eds.) Reading in changing society, (pp. 118-132). Tartu: University of Tartu Press.

Special issue of Information Research (ed. T.D. Wilson), 2014, vol. 19, issue 2.

Wilson, T.D. (2014). The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology Information Research, 19(2) paper 612. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/19-2/paper612.html

Presentations in conferences

Maceviciute E. and Wilson T. The e-book phenomenon in Sweden. In Publishing studies conference “By the book: the book and the study of its digital transformation”, 23-24 May, 2014, Vila Finaly, Florence, Italy. Retrieved from http://publishing.brookes.ac.uk/resources/florence2014/maceviciute_the_ebook_phenomenon_in_sweden.pdf

Wallin, Birgitta and Maceviciute, Elena (2014) Main actors in provision of fiction e-books in a small language market: a Swedish case. In ELPUB2014. Let’s put data to use: digital scholarship for the next generation, 18th International Conference on Electronic Publishing 19-20 June 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece. http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?113_elpub2014


Kuzminiene, Ramune. (2014). E-books in Irish university libraries: changes and challenges in collection development and acquisitions. Unpublished Master’s thesis. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute) Retrieved from http://bada.hb.se/handle/2320/13840

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. Vilnius: Vilniaus universitetas. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute)


Research papers

Bergström, Annika and Höglund, Lars. (2013). Tidiga läsare av e-böcker. I, Lennart Weibull, Henrik Oscarsson, and Annika Bergström (red.) Vägskal. (pp. 357-367). Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet Som-institutet.

Maceviciute E. and Borg M. (2013). The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden. Libellarium, 6(1-2), 13-28. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/181/195

Macevičiūtė, E. & Wilson, T.D. (2013). E-books in Swedish public libraries: policy implications. In, T. Aalberg, C. Papatheodorou, M. Dobreva, G. Tsakonas, G. and C.J. Farrugia. (Eds.) Proceedings of the International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries: Sharing Meaningful Information, Valletta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013. (pp. 29-34). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag. (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 8092).

Wilson T. (2013). The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology. Libellarium, 6(1-2), 3-12. Retrieved from http://www.libellarium.org/index.php/libellarium/article/view/180/203

Presentations in conferences

Höglund L. Presentation of the project in Oslo, 2013, June.

Höglund, L. & Maceviciute E. E-book project: e-bokens framväxt i ett litet språkområde: media, teknologi och effekter i det digitala samhället. Internationella jamförelse: små och stora språkområde. SOM-institut möte, 2013, April 13.

Macevičiūtė, E. & Wilson, T.D. E-books in Swedish public libraries: policy implications. In International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries: Sharing Meaningful Information, Valletta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013.

Maceviciute E. & Borg M. The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden. International Conference “Publishing Trends and Contexts“, Pula, Croatia, 6-7 December, 2013.

Maceviciute, E., Nilsson K., Wilson, T.D., Bergström, A. and Höglund, L. The case of the e-book in “small language” culture: media technology and the digital society. 22nd International Book Science Conference “Traditional and electronic publishing in a small country: experiences and perspectives”, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania, September 26–27, 2013.

Nilsson K. The Impact of e-books in a small language culture: readers and reading. International Conference “Publishing Trends and Contexts“, Pula, Croatia, 6-7 December, 2013.

Nilsson K. Young adults reading. Conference “Reading in Changing Society”, Tartu, Estonia, 31 October – 1 November, 2013.


Konrad, Katherine. (2013). Old habits in a new world? E-book management techniques at an academic library. Unpublished Master’s thesis. Borås: University of Borås. (Supervisor E. Maceviciute). Retrieved from http://bada.hb.se/handle/2320/12674

News from elsewhere


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Given the parochialism of the press in the USA and the UK, every little variation in the sales of printed books and e-books is taken as a preliminary to some global catastrophe. Even when the statistics are, to say the least, incomplete, we get headlines like, “Printed books power back!”, “Collapse in e-book sales”, or similar hyperbole. What is happening in the rest of the world appears to be of no interest whatsoever to the journalists putting out this kind of nonsense. The winding up of Oyster, the e-book subscription service, widely touted as the “Netflicks for books”, is taken as indicating that the model will not work anywhere, in spite of the fact that what happened is that the founders and CEO of Oyster, along with some of their staff got a better offer from Google and decided to wrap things up – nothing whatsoever to do with a failure of their business plan (since no one knows what that was, in any event, being commercially confidential). The fact is that there is not a single market for e-books that can be measured by the sales of AAP publishers in the USA. Different countries and different languages are experiencing different trends and subscription services (including Scribd in the USA and the UK) seem to be doing very nicely, thank you.

Consider Germany, about which there have been a few news items over the past week. First, a report cited by Nate Hoffelder on the Digital Reader blog:

GfK has released some results from its survey of German consumers. It has found that in the first half 2015, an estimated 2.9 million Germans over the age of ten paid for an ebook. They spent a total of nearly 95 million euros. This represents an increase of 13 percent compared to the same period last year…

This follows on from an earlier report from Bitkom to the effect that

A quarter (25 percent) of Germans read digital books (e-books). This is an increase of one percentage point compared to last year. The share of e-book users in the book-reader population is as high as 33 percent. This is the result of a representative survey… among 2,325 people aged 14 and over. “E-books are now an integral part of the digital media world and reach a mass audience,” said Bitkom vice-president Achim Berg in advance of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here this market is still far from having exhausted its potential. According to the survey, 35 percent to those who currently do not read digital books, imagine doing so in the future.

and there’s an interesting bit about the different age groups:

According to the survey results e-books are almost equally popular across the various age groups. 32 percent of 14- to 29-year-olds and 30 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds read e-books. Among 50- to 64-year-olds it is 28 percent. Only in the age group from 65 years is the use 11 per cent, well below the average.

Hoffelder notes that the spend on e-books in Germany, while significant at 95 million Euros, compares with the $730 million spent on e-books in the USA for the first half of 2015 – and that is only the spend reported by the AAP which accounts for only half of the publishers in the USA, so, crudely scaling up, with lots of unwarranted assumptions, the actual annual spend could be something in the order of $2 billion. That doesn’t seem too bad for a “collapsing” e-book market :-)

In a report on the Frankfurt Book Fair, the CEO of the German subscription service, Skoobe, commented:

Our business model is sound and sustainable. The catalogue is growing, and all partners who have signed with us since the start are still on board. Publishers are growing their title base constantly 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. As the overall quality of the catalogue is very high, customers are eager to discover new authors and genres. Some 80% of our customers rate the quality of our book catalogue with “very good” and more than 80% have recommended books that they have read through the service to others.

All of this leaves aside the continuing growth of e-book use in education, and particularly in higher education, and the growth in the developing world. So, next time you see reports of the collapsing e-book market, ask, “Where is this going on?” and “Show me the numbers”.

My bet is that e-books, in their evolving form, are here to stay, although, as I have said before, I don’t expect them to take over from printed books any time soon and that for the consumer market, things are likely to settle down to approximately the Pareto distribution of 80% printed and 20% electronic.

Nordic conference on e-books: a report by Elena Maceviciute


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At the beginning of October The Danish Research Library Association (DFFU) organized a conference for Nordic university librarians, Scholarly e-books in your native language – why, why not or when? The goal was to bring together publishers, aggregators and librarians to start a dialogue and learn from each other how to solve the problem of working with e-books, which is keenly felt on both sides. A special focus of this conference was on e-books in the native languages of the Nordic countries. The two-day conference featured invited papers that presented problems as well as some interesting and unexpected solutions.

The librarians from Copenhagen University Library (Kira Stine Hansen), Uppsala University Library (Karin Byström) and National Library of Finland (Iina Peltonen) were mainly concerned with the lack of communication with publishers, though it seemed that in Denmark and Finland the first ice is breaking. However, the main problem of the scarcity of e-textbooks in local languages is very far from being solved in any of the participating countries.

The representatives of major aggregators, ProQuest (Katinka Bratvold) and EBSCO (Jens Deutscher ), positioned themselves as servants to both, libraries and publishers, and demonstrated their services of getting e-books from publishers by simplifying their entry into e-book publishing and to the academic libraries by becoming one point in negotiations. However, it was clear that the proportion of the local language books that they deal with at the moment is negligible. The only exception was the Danish e-book supplier eReolen, but it reaches only public libraries (Mikkel Christoffersen), like Elib in Sweden.

Basically, academic librarians are facing the reality of the book market and the fears of publishers who emphasize the necessity of keeping the commercial models intact for the supply of university textbooks and scholarly monographs. The publishers suggest that perpetual access is impossible as it is a left-over from printed books. They require that access to an e-book should be limited to one user at a time as if it were a paper one. Both presentations by publishers (Danish Publishers Association (Christine Bødtcher-Hansen) and DJØF Forlag (Anette Wad)) reflected the perspectives of Danish commercial publishers, who seem to be much more flexible than those in Sweden. Nevertheless, the fear of losing the market were quite clear, especially when British presenter Vivien Ward introduced JISC’s experiment of self-published university textbooks. This project also greatly disturbed the representative of the Danish Authors‘ Association regarding writing and publishing commercial non-fiction.

Another presenter from the UK Frances Pinter introduced an innovative and very interesting model of publishing open access scholarly monographs that can bring together both libraries and scholarly publishers. Round two of the experiment and call for libraries for participation has been anounced recently. I think that it is a very good solution for small presses, especially at the universities, but whether it will appeal to the big publishing houses is not yet clear.

The Assistant Director General of the National Library of Norway, Roger Jøsevold, presented the ongoing work of the national digital library in Norway, showing one possible way to solve most of the problems through thoughtful cultural policy directed towards augmenting the public good and the impact of culture on society. Though it is difficult to imagine another government that could direct this amount of financing to a similar activity, it can be achieved through thoughtful and persistent longer-term planning. The author of this post, presented a research perspective on the publishing and library work related to e-books to some extent summarising the discussions of the conference.

The conference programme and some of the presentation slides can be found on the DFFU Website.

It is difficult to guess what will be the impact of this conference, but one can expect that the dialogue of all involved parties could be continued on a larger scale. The access to study and scholarly materials in native languages is already impoverished by thoughtless requirements for publishing scholarly articles only in international journals, which quite effectively stops the development of native scholarly languages in all disciplines. Losing study materials and moving to English may even more strengthen this trend and threaten not only the native languages, but also the plurality of scholarly and study perspectives.

More on trends in e-book sales, and other matters


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Mike Shatzkin has a very interesting article in his Shatzkin files, in which he explores the benefits of e-book publishing for the publisher’s backlist and foreign sales. He refers to the debate generated by the NY Times article on the decline of e-book sales and notes that it refers to sales in the USA and that what sales are generated by AAP publishers outside of the USA is not known. A small counterbalance to the NY Times article comes from the UK publishers who, according to an article in the Guardian, on Waterstone’s decision to stop selling the Kindle, report continuing slight (1%) increase in sales in 2014 over 2015.

Shatzkin notes that it is actually very difficult to figure out what is going on since the data are so fragmentary and flawed. In the E-books Research Group we are interested mainly in what is happening in Sweden, where e-book sales are very low, at about 1% or 2% of total sales – but even here we cannot be sure, since the report comes from the Svenska Förläggareföreningen (SvF) (Swedish Publishers’ Association) and does not include sales of companies that belong to the other association, the Nordiska Oberoende Förlags Förening (NOFF). In spite of its name, NOFF’s members are all from Sweden. This omission is significant, as the SFF reports about 5,000 e-books published in Sweden, whereas our survey of both associations gives us a figure of about 10,000 titles – not an insignificant difference!

Two recent developments by Bonnier, the biggest publishing company in Sweden (and also the second biggest in Germany and with a publishing presence in the USA) are of interest: first, they launched Type & Tell, a self-publishing channel for either printed books or e-books, and more recently they have announced the launch of an e-book subscription service on the lines of Scribd, but one that will offer access to recently published books as well as to the backlist. These two developments may kickstart the sale of e-books in Sweden and the second may have an impact on the lending of e-books through the public library system.

In the course of a couple of interviews with publishers at the recent Gothenburg Book Fair, we picked up hints that the major publishers are not particularly committed to e-book production but, as sales of printed books decline, as they have been doing (albeit slightly) in recent years, e-book production may offer another income channel. Shatzkin’s comments are relevant here, since e-book sales of the backlist could be very helpful to publishers.  Given Bonnier’s international presence (it is, for example, part owner of the major Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm) expansion of its new subscription service to other Nordic countries and to Germany would be an obvious possibility. Bonnier also recently bought the Norwegian content marketing company Teft, jointly with the content agency, Spoon, and has also launched a “social shopping” channel, Stylista.no, with a focus on fashion, but no doubt expandable to other kinds of products – it is a short step from fashion per se to books about fashion, etc. With the continued absence of Amazon from the Swedish market, one has the feeling that Bonnier is poised to become the Amazon of the Nordic countries. Rumour has it that Amazon (which was said two years ago to be ready to open up in Sweden) is staying out it as a result of a deal with the major publishers – but that would be against the EU’s competition rules, so that can’t be true, can it?

It’s probably just a little too early to write off the e-book as a publishing phenomenon: I have never believed that the e-book would replace the printed book and, increasingly, I suspect that a Pareto distribution will prevail, as it does in so many other walks of life, i.e., things will settle down at approximately 80% printed books sold and 20% e-books. Time will tell!

Who loves the Swedish e-books? New research on the different actors.


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Members of the E-books Research Group, Annika Bergström and Lars Höglund from the University of Gothenburg together with Tom Wilson and Elena Maceviciute from the University of Borås took part in the seminar arranged by the Swedish School of Library and Information Science at the Book and Library Fair, at the Digital Market (Digitala Torget) on Thursday, September 24 at 14:00.

Annika Bergström presented the results of the SOM (Swedish Opinion and Media) Institute survey about the readers of Swedish e-books. The survey shows that slightly more men than women are reading e-books in Sweden, which is the reverse of reading printed books. E-book reading diminishes with age and senior readers read fewer e-books, while the youngest group reads most. E-book reading also relates to the higher education level and access to tablet computers and e-readers. However, the survey shows clearly that e-books are read most by those who read printed books most frequently. There are very few e-book readers among those who do not read printed books.

The survey also shows that printed books are considered to be best for most tasks that books are used for: reading for children, reading in bed, sharing with others, reading while commuting, even having a wide choice. E-books are better in only one respect; when readers want quick access to the text.

TDWTom Wilson presented the results of the surveys of publishers, public libraries and academic libraries showing how differently the common problems affect different actors. The low demand for e-books increases uncertainty for the publishers, who do not dare invest larger sums in new technology without some assurance of return on investment. The libraries also face uncertainty in providing access to an expensive resource when they are unable to predict the demand. But the results of the research also show that the publicity and the removal of limitations to e-book access increases the demand quite significantly in a short time. The fears and expectations of the worst outcomes expressed by many respondents seem to be the most significant hindrance for realising the potential of e-books.

larsElenaAt the end of the presentations the listeners were invited to the stand of the Swedish School of Library and Information Science to participate in the questions-answers session. Lars Höglund and Elena Maceviciute answered questions about the possible growth in demand for e-books, the consequences of their use in education, and future perspectives of e-books.

The slide show is available at SlideShare– the first part is in Swedish but, as it is composed mainly of charts, readers should be able to figure it out.

Elena Maceviciute

Heard the one about the decline in e-book sales?


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Bloggers and journalists have been going wild over the past week or so as a result of a New York Times article claiming that printed book sales were reviving while the sales of e-books declined. This was picked up and repeated time and again (e.g., http://libnews.jweinheimer.net/?p=59002) in spite of one or two bloggers noting that the article was flawed because (mainly deriving their comments from Stratechery.com) it was based on only the returns from the Association of American Publishers. The AAP represents all the major publishers but, as in Sweden, where many small publishers do not belong to the Swedish Publishers’ Association, there are probably hundreds of small publishers in the USA that do not belong to the AAP and probably do not belong to any such association, although there is the Independent Book Publishers Association, which, as far as I can determine, makes no sales statistics available, and there are many regional associations in the USA whose members probably do not belong to the AAP. The result is that, while the data may represent the majority of book sales in the USA, they by no means represent all sales and we have no idea how many e-books are produced by publishers that are not members of the AAP. Perhaps most significantly, the AAP’s data cannot reveal how many independently-published, or ‘self-published’, e-books are being sold.


As a counterbalance to the New York Times article, the Author Earnings blog pointed out that Amazon’s sales figures present a different picture as shown in the figure. AAP-member e-book sales from Amazon are definitely down but the drop is compensated for by the increase in the share of what the blog calls the ‘shadow industry’ of independently-published e-books without an ISBN (which makes them invisible to the collectors of industry statistics such as Nielsen). What appears to be happening is not that readers are giving up e-books as the New York Times suggested, but that they are rejecting the higher-priced AAP e-books in favour of the lower-priced independently published books.

A number of the bloggers picking up on the New York Times article have made the rather silly statement that it reveals people switching back to printed books from e-books, as though anyone had ever ‘switched’ the other way. People who read are likely to be reading both printed books and e-books and, indeed, our research in Sweden shows that people who don’t read printed books don’t read e-books. In other words you have to be a ‘reader’ first, and you choose the format you read according to circumstances. I read e-books when I’m travelling, to avoid having to carry around a load of paper-backed books and when I’m at home, I switch from one to the other according to what’s available.

The panel discussion at the Gothenburg Book and Library Fair Who loves Swedish e-books? Small language environment with big issues.


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A panel consisting of the chairperson of the Swedish Publishers Association Kristina Ahlinder, chairperson of the Swedish Writers Assotiation Gunnar Ardelius, President of the Swedish Library Association Niclas Lindberg and the representative of the Literaturbanken (an organiation promoting Swedish literature) Mats Malm has debated the situation of the e-books on Swedish book market. The discussion was moderated by Skans Kersti Nilsson – a senior researcher in our group, which has initiated this seminar.

The participants discussed the issue of whether Swedish society needs e-books and what they are good for. Kristina Ahlinder suggested that the e-book is only a format and what matters is the investment in its content made by authors and publishers. This investment has to be equaled by the demand for this format. Gunnar Ardelius noted that literature, writing and reading have been changing since their inception and the authors have to understand what is happening in this area right now to stay important for the context. Niclas Lindberg emphasized access to the texts and the potential of promoting and spreading reading that is possible because of e-books. And, despite the fact that we do not see a very big demand for them right now, we cannot forsee when the change will happen. Mats Malm pointed out that e-books enable us to revive older material and provide it through open access in various formats. This is an issue of democratisation. Norway has already understood it and supported digitisation of the large part of Norwegian books.

The fact that e-book sales, loans through libraries and readership are quite small in comparison to the print books and e-books in other countries raised the question, What are the barriers to its spread? There were different explanations. Publishers see the problem in the investment that is needed to market and raise the demand for the new format. Very few publishers can afford this investment and many small ones cannot. Libraries should not be the only channel to e-book distribution and it should be balanced with commercial sales, so that the readers do not get into the habit of reading books for free. Besides the difference in VAT and the piracy inhibits active e-book publishing. The librarian´s position is that e-book readers are just readers and we need to promote reading to get more readers who also spend more time reading. The authors noted that there is a digital change, but it is not yet exploited in the same way as the newspapers and music industry has done. There is no such powerful actor on the Swedish stage as Amazon is on the English language market with its promotion of new reading equipment and e-books. The authors views on VAT are very different as many of them think that the state can support culture in other ways than just lowering the tax.

The question on the role of the libraries in dissemination of e-books raises tension between publishers and librarians. This could be noted in the debate as well. Kristina Ahlinder thinks that the role of libraries in promoting reading and digital reading is positive. But their budget is limited and they have to make choices. When the demand for e-books increases their budgets cannot cope with that demand. Therefore, the economy of loans through libraries is not attractive to publishers. Niclas Lindberg suggested that this is the issue for cultural policy as library budgets are allocated by different levels of the government. And it is very important that the negotiations with publishers were taken over by the Swedish Association of the Local and Regional Authorities who are impartial in this dispute. For libraries it is better to buy a paper book, because the cost per loan diminishes with every loan, while with e-books it is entirely the opposite – they become more expensive with each loan. Kristina Ahlinder pointed out that the National Library has calculated that each issue of a paper book costs around 50-60 SEK, while e-books do not have these administration costs. Niclas was agreeing to it, but librarians in the audience pointed out that the costs of servicing e-books are not lower than these of servicing paper books. Quite on the contrary, they demand more technical support for the readers, more sophisticated marketing and infrustructural support.

Mats Malm considered the e-book’s role in the enlightenment and education. The most important worry of the Literaturbanken is that there is not enough access to the older classical literature and that leads to higher demand for simpler leisure literature. The appreciation for the quality literature has to be developed from school, thus the text should be moved to the digital space first and then the serious work should begin. The Literaturbanken works with teachers who have developed a Website for schools. He was supported by Niclas Lindberg who has pointed out that librarians role always involved building bridges between what a reader wants and the high quality texts that require more efforts to read. Libraries work for this with schools and many other partners as a library is not books, but librarians who are building these bridges.

The question on who should take the responsibility for the cultural policy related to e-books has been also answered in different ways. Mats Malm returned to the example of the Norwegian government, which invested heavily in digitisation of Norwegian books. The investment is needed into highlighting what is marginalised in literature and should be put in focus more. This is the work in progress in Sweden. Gunnar Ardelius suggested that the work of an author has to be accessible through all possible channels and in all formats. One should remember that books are not only commercial products but also cultural value. Kristina Ahlinder does not approve of the state´s involvement in publishing policy, instead it should be involved in reading promotion. But, according to an interesting shift in logic, publishers should get economic support when they are publishing serious literature, which may not sell well. Niclas Lindberg suggested that the role of the cultural policy should take care of different interests of many actors involved with e-books. A publisher may want to sell his product for 120SEK, but if the buyer is willing to pay for it only 12SEK or nothing at all, then publisher is in trouble. The balance of the interests for the greatest public good should be the focus of the cultural policy.

Elena Maceviciute

International Conference By the Book 2015 “Books and reading in an age of media overload“, 18-19 June, 2015, Florence, Italy


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The international conference on publishing studies organized by three formidable academics and enthusiasts – Benoît Berthou (Paris 13 Université, Sorbonne Paris Cité), Miha Kovač (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) and Angus Phillips (Oxford Brooks University, UK) – seems set to become a regular feature in the European context of publishing studies. In addition to an entirely recent Pula and quite ancient Vilnius conferences that have specific features, but adhere to the same book and publishing studies area it signifies strengthening and increasing relevance of this academic study field as well as consolidation of a particular academic community. A closer relationship of this academic community to reading scholars is developing, as one can see from the presentations in the conferences and the constellation of a recently formed COST action E-READ (http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/isch/Actions/IS1404).

The second Florence conference attracted a significant number of presentations from fourteen countries. Forty papers were presented over two days in thirteen sessions and there were two discussion panels. Some sessions ran in parallel and it was impossible for one person to listen to all presentations. So, I have engaged the help of my colleagues Tom Wilson and Asta Urbanavičiūtė. I am very grateful for their input into this text. I am also grateful to all those who commented the conference on Twitter. This helped me to revive my memory of the whole event.


The presentations at the conference covered a large range of issues, but they all relate to publishing and book studies. The participants were talking with just a few exceptions about a book in different contexts and of processes related to it.

As one may expect, the participants paid great attention to general issues of book publishing and distribution using several theoretical perspectives.

Zoran Velagić (Croatia) tried to map the variety of processes related to e-book production and circulation on several existing models. He noted the changes in book production and the emergence of new products that expand or take the place of the ultimate product of publishing. A number of new models have emerged to explain the new developments in book production. Media-oriented and producer-oriented models deal with more traditional issues, but author-oriented models explore the choices made by authors, while content-oriented models explain how to maximize capital in content. The presenter suggested that there should be a new model including practices of book circulation. He emphasized that publishers do not control the whole book cycle and at present are quite concerned about the fate of the sold book copy. The plurality of models emerging in book studies shows the efforts to deal with changes. These models become the indicators of the innovation and control spaces.

Frania Hall (UK) provided a practice-oriented perspective to the theoretical dimensions presented by Velagić. She had conducted a survey among strategic managers in publishing, seeking to understand their reactions to changes. Her results show that the change is perceived with great clarity. The re-organization of structures and increased collaboration are the usual responses by which the managers try to diminish risk. The collaboration in this context is especially interesting as it happens among the competitors. The network structures have come into existence to initiate collaborative projects. Thus, the book industry is at present characterised by increase in creativity and collaborative strategies.

Miha Kovač had looked into several interesting issues relating to book circulation as a whole. He presented the forecasts of the death of the book since the 16th century to this day, from some outstanding scholars and scientists. The general feature of these forecasts is the perception of reading as a too complicated and time-consuming activity. However, he illustrated the growth of publishing in titles and print-runs with some statistical data, though world print-run statistics does not exist. There are no global statistics of library loans either, but the data available in different countries together show that book production and usage has been constantly growing. At present we see that the time devoted to reading has diminished, but the number of non-readers (including non-readers of books) also diminished in all social groups. The present statistics show that some readers are lost, especially among younger age groups. This can be a real threat to the future of the publishing if books disappear from schools.

Though authors were mentioned by a number of presenters, only two of them concentrated on the authorship issues. Alexis Weedon (UK) compared the changes happening to authors at the beginning of the 20th and 21st centuries, though his talk focused on the authors from 1920s. He investigated the influence of new technologies, such as radio, cinema and television, on the behaviour of the authors of popular texts. The audiovisual culture provided them with new possibilities of marketing and branding. They started talking and reading for the public through radio and began writing stories that could be filmed. For the first time the authors have become celebrities. We can see similar changes at the beginning of 21st century, though the possibilities of multi-media, mobile reading, self-publishing, and media convergence are not yet fully developed or exploited. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold (UK) explored the significance of the author in modern book production. Celebrity authors, such as Zoe Sugg, with her book Girl Online and others capitalize on the activities in social media, such as Wattpad used by authors and readers. Wattpad is a hugely popular arena with 250,000 stories shared on it every day. The impact of the reputation and celebrity status of an author on book sales can be illustrated by increased sales of Galbraith’s book when it was revealed that it is a pseudonym of J.K. Rowling. To some extent the topic was taken up by Kristina Lundblad (Sweden) who argued from the historical perspective that the publishers are selecting and producing authors rather than texts or books. Without this outcome the publishers role in the modern book production and circulation processes is neither given nor required.

It is not surprising that many presenters were focusing on the issues of publishers‘ activities. Christoph Bläsi (Germany) explored the widening activities of big commercial publishers (Penguin books, Wiley, Kluwer) who produce not only content, but also an increasing number of side products and outcomes. The intangible outcomes produced by them can manifest as interactivity, services, contexts, and interfaces. Sara Kärrholm (Sweden) was looking into the policies and motives of republishing. She presented a number of Swedish cases showing that republishing confirms the change in the status of an author, a consecration of the genre, and the status of the publishing house. It is also a way to influence public debate on literary value. Stieg Hjarvard and Rasmus Helles (Denmark) explored the e-book as an organizational game changer in publishing. Their aim was to understand the perception of key business actors in relation to the changes produced by the e-book. The presenters have introduced the concepts of the greenfield development (creation of new infrastructures) vs brownfield development (changes and additions to existing infrastructures). The interviews with Danish publishers, booksellers, and representatives of digital streaming services have shown that the e-book is seen as an extension of existing practices. Quality is perceived as the means of defence against self-publishing and bottom up innovation. The respondents treat intellectual rights as capital and have a top down attitude to markets and customers. Amazon, Apple and Google are seen as the real competition and perhaps the future of the book. Established operators focus on gradual adaptation, and still see editors as the key employees, although they are increasingly employing new skills. 


Several participants looked into the production of different digital books. Helena Seiler (France) investigated the strategies of DEPS publishers in France. Their main goal is to circulate and highlight  activities and projects of public ministries and institutions. They have adopted digital publishing as means of reducing the production costs and increasing the visibility, despite the fact that some titles have been lost in the process. S.A. Hughes (UK) presented the implementation and the outcomes of the METS museum project to make the great art books openly available on the internet. She has explored the philosophy and organisation, copyright solutions, the actual working process and technology means. Claudio Pires Franco (UK) suggested that publishers have to cope with the new demands and need for new skills in the enhanced e-book environment. Positioning digital vs print books as totally competitive is not appropriate as their affordances are totally different. She outlined the potential of enhanced e-books that is based on the elements other than text, and requires new ways of authoring, marketing, and using them. Toke Ebbesen (Denmark) looked into the design of digital textbooks taking a Danish educational publishing model as a case. He applied the semiotic model inspired by Giampaolo Proni for analysis looking into the use of the artefact and discursive associations that relate it to the user. The presenter explained the new roles and relations between the authors and designers related to the new production workflows.

Several presenters concentrated on presenting the panorama of publishing in different countries. Rachel Noorda and Stevie Mardsen (Scotland) explored the significance of Scotishness in publishing for local and international markets as well as the means of expressing it through different signs. Tore Slaatta (Norway) presented an interesting insight into the Norwegian literary field and book production. Kinga Kasperek (Poland) produced a gloomy picture of Polish e-book market based on the literature review. Two presenters from Lithuania managed to convey the feeling of crisis in Lithuanian publishing. Aida Dobkevičiūtė talked about the decrease of publishing scope due to the economic crisis and emigration that reduces the number of readers. Asta Urbanavičiūtė depicted strategies of Lithuanian cultural periodicals to stay afloat despite diminishing state support and increasing competition from other media. Gulia Trentacosti (Scotland) looked at the translations of English literature in global markets and increased competence of English in non-English speaking countries, such as the Netherlands. As a result the scope of translations from English language is shrinking.

The process of editing has not been forgotten by the presenters. George Knott (Netherlands) has explored the tention between the short term profit seeking and long-term scholarly goals in production and dissemination of publications, but most significantly the impact of this tension on the work of an editor working for a commercial publisher. Susan Greenberg (UK) talked about the poetics of editing and characterised editors job as seeing the text as not finished. Katharine Reeve (UK) discussed the role of an editor as a tastemaker, talent spotter and quality controller.

A certain amount of attention was devoted to using the potential of social media and crowdsourcing for book production and marketing. Nick Canty (UK) focused on the possibilities offered by the YouTube, namely how books, authors, and readers are presented there through video blogs. Sarah Mygind (Denmark) presented the results of analysis of a social media site kiddly.dk produced by the publisher Egmont and showed how a publisher positions itself in relation to their young readers and their parents for creating an attractive environment to collect book recommendations and reviews. This becomes a powerful marketing tool harnessing free labour of the Egmont readers. Anna Kiernan (UK) approached the issue from a different side and related a case of community publishing in Cornwall, which was conducted for the entirely ideal goal of serving the community for no commercial gain. From the economic point of view it is entirely a misfit, but produced social benefits. Kim Maya Sutton (Germany) looked into the provision of funds for publishing projects through crowdfunding and demonstrated that Greek laws do not support this kind of finance acquisition at all.

Some of the participants were interested in book dissemination institutions. Ana Steiner (Sweden) is conducting a comparative study of digital change and sales of book from a historical perspective in Sweden. She overviewed the process of concentration of the book stores, the weakening of the book clubs, and emergence of alternative dissemination channels. The author also looked at what and why people are actually buying (texts or books) and how much they are prepared to pay. She explained different situation of readers and non-readers on the book market. Elena Maceviciute and Tom Wilson (Sweden) presented the situation in another book dissemination context in Sweden and explored the e-book acquisition and management in Swedish academic libraries focusing on the affordances and problems that occur on the way. Primož Južnič and Miha Kovač (Slovenia) continued this topic by comparing the sales of books and library loans in Slovenia over a longer historical period. They think that the mission of libraries is not justified by the loan patterns.

The other end of the communication chain, the readers, were implicitly present in most of the presentations. But several papers were devoted specifically to them or to changes in reading practice. Françoise Paquienseguy (France) discussed the origins of digital reading that began with the use of .pdf formats. She postulated that digital reading has emerged in a professional environment and the expectations of the readers were formed by the early digital formats. At present this behaviour is transfered into the leisure reading sphere. Srećko Jelušić (Croatia) presented a paper prepared together with Alessandro Gandolfo (Italy) and Mate Jurić. The paper was based on the results of the survey of the reading habits of students in Italy, Croatia and China. The comparison of the results (though only from one university in each country) revealed the differences in practices of buying and acquiring books, channels and equipment used for reading and other interesting features of students voluntary reading. Padmapriya Padmalochanan (Australia) looked at screen reading as the means changing not only the behaviour of readers, but also the behaviour, tools and working conditions of publishers as they should make digital texts readable in different ways and different environments.

It is only natural that a conference on publishing studies should include a whole section on education and study programmes for publishers, and there were some papers relating to this topic in other sections as well. Judith Watts (UK) was talking about the ways to use publishing theory for the development of professional skills and competencies. Franjo Pehar (Croatia) identified a number of publishing study programmes and courses and collected the data about the teaching literature used in them. It seems that quite many programmes use the same English literature and only some of the countries have produced original textbooks for publishing studies. Lucy Ry-Kottoh (Scotland) has presented a publishing studies programme in Ghana, which surprisingly was started as early as 1984. She outlined the opinions of African publishers on this study programme, discussed the shortcomings and perspectives of its further development. Arūnas Gudinavičius (Lithuania) has conducted a survey of training needs among Lithuanian publishers. It occurred that most of the workers in the publishing industry have never participated in any training. The wish to get training and even to pay for it is directly related to earlier participation in training. Rose Leighton (Netherlands) and Helena Markou (UK) talked about a very interesting collaborative project among the publishing teachers from Amsterdam and Oxford Brookes Universities. The project consisted of giving real publishing experience (experiential learning) to the students by actually producing a city guide for international students. The outcomes and the process of work were presented, the means of financing and students‘ assessment discussed.

The topic that received least attention in the conference relates to the methodology of publishing studies, though many research methods were mentioned. From this point of view two papers are very interesting. Simon Rowberry (Scotland) has explored the reverse engineering method to use the Amazon infrastructure for data mining. As any activity on the computer network leaves traces, so, despite the fact that Amazon does not share its data with researchers, one can find it independently, though this work requires special and rather skilled approach. Reverse engineering is not the best technology, but it is better than nothing. The author demonstrated the results of his pilot project that were quite fascinating. These results show that Amazon has started selling e-books from 2000 (before the Kindle was released), that it re-sells the e-books digitized for Project Gutenberg and many other interesting things. Tomislav Jakopec (Croatia) was looking into the models that help continuous monitoring of the e-book market. The problem with other online sellers is the same as with Amazon – they do not share their data considering it a commercial secret. Thus data collection has to be done manually from different sources. A possible solution for this could be building of a data model, then, based on that, developing a module-based information system, the part of which will craw, verify and report results of crawling for each vendor. The other part should describe method, report and provide analytics, and compare with previous study. One can create such a system using open source technologies, such as Selenium for Java as the crawling tool. These two interesting papers have laid good ground to the next conference in Zadar.

Two discussion panels took place during the conference. One looked into the prospect of organizing an association that could take care of further organizing the conference. Another round table explored the visions of the participants (Claire Squires, Sophie Noël, Ann Steiner, and Adriaan van der Weel) related to the future of the 21st century book.


The wonderful atmosphere of the Villa Finaly helped to feel relaxed, contributed to building friendly relationships, and generating interesting ideas for further collaboration.

Elena Maceviciute
(Pictures by Tom Wilson)


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