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Three members of the team have been invited to give papers at the “International Conference Publishing – trends and contexts“, to be held in Pula, Croatia, on the 6-7 December, this year.  Below are the abstracts we have prepared for the conference.

The e-book phenomenon: a disruptive technology

Professor T.D. Wilson

Abstract

The emergence of the e-book as a major phenomenon in the publishing industry is of interest, world-wide.  The English language market, with Amazon.com as the major player in the market may have dominated attention, but the e-book has implications for many other languages and book markets.

 

The pre-e-book publishing world can be seen as a system in which authors delivered texts to publishers, who evaluated, edited, printed and distributed the published text to bookshops and thence to libraries and individual readers. This process has been going on since Gutenberg’s re-invention of movable type in about 1439 (following its original invention in China in the 9th century, and the use of metallic type in Korea in 1234), in other words, for about the past 450 years.

The invention of movable type was an instance of a disruptive technology: eventually putting monastic scribes out of business altogether.  Similarly, the e-book has the potential to disrupt the processes for the production, distribution and use of authorial texts, and is already in the process of doing so.

First, the phenomenon of self-publishing has emerged as a serious contender to the more formal process; secondly, publishers may derive significant economic benefit from the reduction in printing and distribution costs, as well as the ability to sell directly to the consumer through their own Websites; thirdly, the impact on booksellers may result in a further reduction in the number of independent stores – a decline already in process as a result of online bookselling; fourthly, user demand is resulting in libraries wrestling with the problems of how to manage e-books within their collection development and management processes; and, finally, the behaviour of readers is changing as the devices available for using e-books become more numerous and cheaper.

Only someone blessed with absolute certainty in forecasting the future can know exactly how things will change, but there is little doubt that the development of the e-book will bring about substantial changes in the processes of book production, distribution and use–and many of these changes will surprise us.

The current situation of e-books in academic and public libraries in Sweden

Prof. Elena Maceviciute and Martin Borg

Abstract

The arrival of e-books in Swedish libraries has been influenced by the ideas of provisions of equal access to all media and all Swedish citizens as well as by librarians’ wish to provide best service to their users within the library’s area of responsibility. They saw this new resource and service in the light of fulfilling their specific function in a democratic society that is usually expressed in Sweden as mediation (or transfer) of knowledge and culture to all. This is a common foundation, on which new media and information resources (including e-books) are incorporated into Swedish academic and public libraries.

Apart from this common basis we see other similarities in work with e-books in both types of libraries, but also a number of differences. Most of them relate to the situation of libraries within their respective context and in relation to their specific role.

Academic libraries are quite influential players in the global scholarly communication and supporters of both research and study processes. As such they are embedded in mainly international market of scientific information and scholarly materials. They have significant resources provided by parent universities for acquisition and a wide choice of commercially available material from different producers and vendors. They are organized into a national library consortium that has increased negotiation power. Thus, they have more freedom to experiment with a variety of business and pricing models offered on the international market. They also have high competence in the area of publishing and often play a role of a publisher themselves. Their involvement in research process and in open access initiatives puts them in a position to provide expertise to researchers in publishing and intellectual property areas.

Public libraries are part of local cultural and educational landscape. As such they depend on the production of media and content in national languages that helps to cater to the needs and demands of the local population. They also are customers on a relatively small market of publishing, entertainment and education-related materials that help to fulfil their function in the enlightenment of the people. As public libraries offer open and free-of-charge access to their resources to the totality of the population in a particular territory, eventually covering the whole country, they are regarded as a disruptive player in the market economy. This perceived threat from public libraries was reborn in the emerging market of e-books.

Despite these differences both academic and public libraries face similar challenges and problems in management of their collections, creating metadata, and providing access to them. So far, no such solutions that could satisfy all involved parties have been found.

The Impact of E-books in a Small Language Culture: Readers and Reading

Dr. Kersti Nilsson

Abstract

The Swedish research project on e-books in small language culture concentrates on how the system of e-books production, distribution and adoption might be affected by the rise of e-books. Whether  parts or links within the system turn out to be diminished or strengthened compared to the traditional book market – as well as to the global market – is one of the key issues for this project. According to theory and research questions, this project aims to find out what supervening social necessity drives the adoption of the e-book technology in Sweden. The project will go on for four years, which implies that changes within the system will continuously go on during the research period.

This presentation will focus on the adoption of e-books in Sweden among readers, users, or consumers. According to the annual national SOM-survey (Society Opinion Media) the facilities for reading e-books among the Swedish population (16 – 85 years old) based households is 53%, while 85% of the population have access to computers at home. On the other hand, only 9% on the population have read an e-book, fiction or non-fiction, during 2012. According to the survey e-book reading tends to differ depending of demographic factors, but the relation between reading e-books and printed books is weak. The SOM survey is one of the tools being used by the project.

The literacy rate in Sweden is high, but there are signs of decline among young people, according to PISA report (2009).  Results of these tests show that digital literacy is far better, as computers are used at school as well as during leisure time, sometimes 15 hours per day or more.  The younger generation is well trained as screen-readers and, therefore, well prepared for e-book reading. The question is, then, is fiction in printed books considered as equal to reading fiction in e-books? Studies show that it is not so.

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