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.