…comes from a blog entry at PR NewsWire, which seems rather an usual source for this kind of topic. In it one Bob Bly (said to be millionaire direct response copywriter, lecturer, and author of over 85 books) is quoted as saying, “Most [publishers] are teetering on the brink. Submissions are only welcome, if they relate to a TV star, rock star, movie star, politician or someone on death row‘. The answer, says Bly, is self-publication – and the well-known success stories of the genre are cited as evidence. Of course, not every self-published author makes millions, or even one million, but at least an author can get a book out in front of the audience, without facing the depressing phenomenon of fifteen rejection slips!
From the outset – or at least since the invention of the Kindle and the iPad – the e-book has been disrupting the lives of librarians and publishers. Why? From our research into the role of the e-book in Sweden we find a lack of a rational response to this new medium on both sides.
Everywhere, the e-book accounts for only a small proportion of total loans from public libraries – in Sweden it is about 2% – and yet the loan charges in Sweden result in budgetary problems for libraries. Any rational person would ask, What is the cost/benefit relationship for the expenditure? But librarians are driven by an ideology that says that, if a medium exists, it must be made available – and this ideology is now enshrined the Swedish library law. Neither law, nor government, however, say anything about where the money comes from to pay for the service.
For public libraries in Sweden, the question needs to be asked: are the benefits to society (i.e., those persons in the community who account for that 2% of loans) worth the budgetary costs and uncertainty. We doubt if any commercial organization would get into business on this basis.
The publishers are disrupted in a different way: their raison d’être is the publication of printed books. They know their market for such products and their entire business is founded on the printed book. A printed book is priced to recover the costs of production, distribution and author’s royalties. Consequently, the e-book is, for the most part, a by-product of the printed version – interactive, enhanced books have so far failed to make much of an impression on the market.
As a by-product, the cost of producing an e-version of the latest novel is negligible, by comparison with the costs already incurred in the production of the printed version. However, to sell the e-book at a price that would recover its specific costs of production would, they fear, cut into the sales of the printed version, from which their profits are derived. We have seen what happens when publishers raise the price of e-books on Amazon: their sales fall and the commentators seize on this as evidence that the e-book is in decline, when it is the publishers’ income from the product that is in decline.
We come to the conclusion that the publishers of printed books are not really interested in e-books: they have made little or no attempt to create a market for the product and, instead, have done everything to inhibit the growth of the market. Their fear is that self-publication could seriously eat into their profits and getting into the e-book market is little more than a defensive posture. Rationally, publishers should take a look at the market and the ratio of print sales to e-sales, and conclude that they have no role to play – unless they want to stimulate demand for e-books to the point at which they can benefit equally from print sales and e-sales. Like libraries, they need to consider whether the production of e-books is in their economic interest. Perhaps they are already doing so, as one commentator notes;
“The latest AAP report seems to show that major publishers are also working to kill off the eBook [as they have worked to kill off the digital editions of magazines]. This will be harder to accomplish because while the big name publishers control an impressive share of the print book market, their hold on the digital book market is less firm thanks to Amazon and self-publishing”. (Hebbard, 2016).
The situation is not helped by legal matters, which seem to be entirely confusing as the legal e-book status is quite undefined and oscilates between a computer file, a service, and a book as such. This concerns first of all the VAT issue that not only negatively affects practically all the actors in the field, but also helps the smartest to derive benefits by wriggling among different VAT rates in different countries. There are other possibilities of manipulation related to the same vagueness in calculating the authors’ royalties or other taxes.
The European Court of Justice is currently sitting over a case that deals with the question of “should lending of e-books be governed by the same rules as the lending of ‘classic’ printed books?” (Lovells, 2016). It is not a joke, as it is connected with the library lending a new copy of a book by creating a copy of the file on the reading device of a user, though the problem is far from new and has been encountered by digital journals and articles, and which clearly differs from lending the physical copy of a book to a user. The crazy thing is that a positive decision for libraries might lead to lending an e-book to one person at a time without the possibility of lending it to anyone else until it is returned by the previous reader, just as a traditional printed book.
Thus, having in our hands a dream product to promote reading and distribute information for all, we are going to kill it at root by treating it as an old product with all the limitations, instead of looking for innovative legal and business models that could satisfy all the actors. But it is a difficult job to make our brains work in unusual ways.
The most rational actors are individual authors and users (as long as they do not act as a group or corpus), though each one may see different benefits. They are looking for the solutions that help to reach their goals and satisfy their interests best, either by self-publishing or sticking to big publishers, reading for free and/or crowdsourcing an interesting book project or buying expensive hardbacks and enjoying the smell of new print.
Elena Maceviciute and Tom Wilson
Hebbard, D.B. (2016, August 1). Publishers (and vendors) killed off the digital edition, now they are working on eBooks, too. Talking New Media.
Lovells, H. (2016, July 6). Advocate General comments on lending e-books. Global Media and Communication Watch: blog.
On 23-24 June, 2016, the International Symposium By the book 2016: Building audiences for the book in the age of media proliferation took place in Villa Final in Florence, Italy. The participants have arrived from 13 countries of Europe and beyond, which is no wonder if you look at the list of organizers and committee members on the Symposium webpage.
The Symposium was opened by the main organizers and initiators Benoit Berthou, the Vice-president for business relations of the Paris 13 University, Sorbonne Paris Cite, Miha Kovac, University Ljubljana, Slovenia and Angus Phillips, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom and rolled on for two days with 13 sessions attended by approximately 50 participants.
Several interesting topics were pursued in the conference. The building of audiences that is highlighted in the sub-title of the Symposium was the central one and many others were connected to it closely and related to marketing, services for the audience and reach out issues by different institutions dealing with books and reading. Two streams of papers can be identified within this area: the larger group, related to consumer books and a smaller number of papers related to academic and educational publishing. Some papers also focussed on the more general topics in publishing studies.
The paper by Paul Docherty (Stirling University) Pubs, publishers and public libraries looked directly into the community, namely Glasgow city, activities directed towards building reading and writing city through Glasgow Book Festival and the gaps left by it. The Festival run by the City Libraries for 15 years is highly popular and well regarded, but mainly attracts female, middle class, middle age participants. The project presented in the paper was concerned with the discovery of other readers and writers in one of the parts of the city where 70% of people do not own a smartphone or a computer. The author found people engaged in writing and creation of various genres and active literary engagement in the community, however, its members did not regard the Glasgow Book Festival as something that they can attend. They want to be recognised as participants and co-creators of literature and they believe that people do not respect what they have to offer.
The paper by Claudio Franco (University of Bedfordshire), Audiences of the future, also focused on the processes that are changing the habits of reading of the young generation. At present young people experience problems related to the overload and fragmentation of reading materials across a range of media and devices. This becomes a challenge to traditional media, but can be turned into an opportunity, a niche for cooperation for the audience and the traditional publishers. For the first the cross media and multiplicity is the norm, thus the latter can stimulate reading by nurturing literary brands and using them as markers for choice.
Laura Dietz (Anglia Ruskin University) in her paper, Speaking the language of Amazon, drew attention to the specificity of getting novels on the internet and reading on screen. She pointed out that many users of the Amazon are ashamed to use it and do not trust it, but still regard it as an easiest access to reading texts. They define electronic novels in relation or in opposition to printed books expecting traditional features. Readers define the quality of a novel as a result of professionalism and through the respect to convention: editing, formatting, cover, etc. Self-publishing authors sense this position of their readers and present elaborated stories explaining why they have turned to self-publishing. Novel selection on the Amazon page seems like fishing – looking at one book and let it go, getting hold of another and so on. People apply mental models from previous information systems and do not use Amazon system any more effectively than any other.
Mediators of books
A number of papers were devoted to specific mediators, who have impact on the readers and their ways of building book audiences.
Kim Maya Sutton with her co-author Ina Paulfeuerborn (Jade Hochschule Wilhelmshaven) looked into The influence of literary blogs. She treated book bloggers as gatekeepers for the books and avid readers themselves. A survey of blog users has shown that there is no big age difference among them, that they put blogs into the second place for book recommendations after their friends and that they indirectly influence their buying decisions. The authors admitted that due to the way the survey was conducted they actually could get data only from the blog users but not from others who are not using blogs.
Melanie Ramdarshan Bold and Corrina Norick-Ruhl (University College London) in their paper, Audience building and the three percent problem, explored the influence of literary prizes on the book consumption. They regarded the Booker prize as a consumers’ guide. Sales for Booker and IFFP books increase as a rule by three percent after they get into long list, are shortlisted and win.
Ivona Despot, Nives Tomašević and Ivana Ljevak (Ljevak Publishing) in the presentation Between pages and games, explored the interaction between written texts and other formats within the realm of entertainment where even searching for book belongs to leisure time. Alexis Weedon (University of Bedfordshire) was Exploring the effects of multichannel storytelling not only on the audience, but also on other actors involved in book production and stories themselves, contemplating on what happens when a story is translated into other modalities, how do people select between adaptations and how they evaluate them. Film may spoil the story or improve it. Books belong to virtual reality which is mostly evident in graphic and pop-up books of the past, but present technology widens the forms of storytelling. Asta Urbanavičiūtė’s (Vilnius University) paper on the ithuanian literary magazine ‘Kultūros barai’ – cultural mission in a modern way, can be regarded partly as a matter of mediation, though she mainly focused on the tactics of the magazine in dealing with new trends of overall publishing and especially maintaining the quality that allows the magazine to remain in the public eye and attract its readership.
Sophie Noel (Paris 13 University) used a very different approach to The independent bookshop in perspective. She outlined the place and conditions of independent bookshops in the book market in France and presented an interview study of independent bookshop keepers. Eighteen respondents had high educational level, were middle-aged, more men than women, and opened bookshops by taking out bank loans. They were devoted to their work, working long hours, more concerned with culture, though acquainted with real life. The author divided her respondents into two groups: one group had worked in bookselling their entire lives, the second group had entered this business in later years from a different profession, getting closer to the cultural life without dangers of artistic bohemia, and being their own boss. They valued subjectivity and individuality, were creating specific atmosphere of trust with their community and gift economy with their customers. Their personality was put forward and constructed for visitors, not necessarily nice, but original and captivating. They regarded their independence as a resource distinguishing bookshops from mainstream and especially internet sellers.
Some of the participants were looking into the activities of publishers designed to attract the consumers and shape the reading audience.
Nadia Sartoreti’s (University of Geneva) paper, Making Chinese contemporary popular literature: novels as consumer goods, presented a wide picture of publishing in China and concentrated on three publishers working for the market and their strategies for attracting audience, such as employing bestselling authors, serializing novels, etc. The presentation concentrated on social websites for users produced by publishers and their features: subscription services for a particular audience (e.g., female), introducing games and apps for different devices, providing possibilities for ranking authors, categorizing books and keeping prices low with regard to many readers. Andrius Šuminas (Vilnius University) presented Branding and communication strategies of publishers seeking visibility among audiences. He discussed the role of brands for audiences and companies and introduced a classification for analysing brands supported by publishing examples: sector branding (romances), creating brands for a publisher, a series, an author, a product (a separate book), or a character. There are no clear boundaries between different types of branding, but they all serve for attracting attention and providing a recognizable features for reading audience.
Agathe Nicolas (CELSA Paris Sorbonn University) presented a different strategy of publishers in her presentation From the ‘book to read’ to the ‘book to collect’: Harry Potter and the French editor’s digital platforms. She demonstrated that publishers keep the interest of the audiences by producing new special editions of the same books appreciated by the audiences for their stories, but directing their efforts towards the exclusivity of the edition. This strategy keeps old stories sold to the same readers over and over again. Giulia Trentacosti (Edinburgh Napier University) in English originals vs translations talked about the competition between English language titles and Dutch translations. She saw a big problem that most successful books for young adults are translations and many of their readers will be as fluent in English as in Dutch (if that is not yet the case). Dutch publishers, especially those producing adult literature, have to acknowledge the fact and to design specific strategies to avoid losing readers.
The paper by Pamela Shultz-Nybacka (Södertörn University) has presented the case of an author communicating with her readers in Co-authoring and co-editing the twilight brand. She demonstrated how cultural, authorship and literature branding emerges from the interaction between an author and her readers, from authorship and corporation, from consumers interaction with media and cultural industry. Morgan Gonseth (University of Geneva) explored the identities of Chinese writers in her presentation Author’s changing identities in the new media era (a part of a project exploring popular culture in China). The author interviewed Chinese writers with different characters that are obviously constructed with great care. These writers pay attention to their image and literary poses more that the Western ones. Despite different images that they project for the audience (a traditional Chinese writer, a popular novelis, a cultural entrepreneur, a shy author never expecting success, a woman babe writer etc.) most of them see the tension between commercial success vs intellectual recognition.
There were some other issues of authorship discussed at the Symposium. Alison Baverstock raised the question Are the two key stakeholders in publishing now the author and their editor? She explored the situation in self-publishing and support that authors get from their own community and special services. The role of an editor is not diminishing in the self-publishing world, on the contraty it increases in comparison with a diminished role that is reserved for editors in modern traditional publishing house. Freelance authors have become a distinctive group with a recognized role and taking the opportunities offered by the new situation. The authors who were required to do more to promote their books have learned new skills and feel empowered to look for other opportunities. Both authors and editors face new problems in traditional publishing and new possibilities outside of it. Kinga Kasperek’s (University of Silesia) presentation Writer is dead was far less optimistic about the prospects of Polish self-published authors, most of whom are not successful. Sylvie Bosser (Paris 8 University) has presented an overview on new publishing possibilities in her presentation Self-publishing platforms: competitors or recruiting grounds for specialised publishing houses within the field of genre literature. She has arrived to the conclusion that publishers do not look for new authors but for quick turnover, saleable products.
The academic publishing strand in the Symposium started with a panel session on one of most important issues of open access models that concern both audiences of academic publishing users – the authors and the readers. There were brief contributions from Pierre Mounier of Open Edition, who described the aims of the organization and its business model. Its focus is on the social sciences and humanities and access to everything on the site is open. However, if you want the pdf, you pay for it. Fulvio Guatelli, of Firenze University Press, which was established in 2000 and has published 800 books and 40 journals. In the case of the journals, 75% of the costs are paid by the owners, 20% from subscriptions and 5% from article processing charges. Fifty per cent of the books and 90% of the journals are open access. Finally, Tullio Basaglia, of CERN discussed the open scholarly publishing of the organization.
This topic was carried to the session on academic publishing where Ana Maria Tammaro, of the University of Parma, presented The fourth paradigm: digital scholarship, innovation and scholars’ attitudes, noting new modes of publication marrying data and software and increased collaboration. She reported on a survey by IFLA (using the results from Italy only) into the attitudes of researchers to open science and open access, noting the increasing influence on search behaviour of sites such as ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net) and Academic.edu (https://www.academia.edu). The role of Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar in assessing the impact of a researcher’s work was also noted, as was the apparent absence of libraries from the process.
At a different level of the educational process, primary and secondary education, Christoph Bläsi, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, reported on The quality of schoolbooks, digital schoolbooks and other learning materials. The paper considered the quality criteria used for BELMA (the Best European Learning Materials Award) and their disadvantaged and considered other, similar criteria. Evolving satisfactor criteria for determining quality is clearly problematical, but it is rather surprising that none of the sets of criteria discussed had considered the views of the ultimate users – the school-children – on what might be considered a ‘quality’ text.
Academic publishing was also explored by Heikko Hartmann (Hochschule für Technik, Wirtschaft und Kultur Leipzig) through Academic publishing in the humanities. He identified the publishing needs of academics (to publish quickly and be noticed) and users who are the same academics and students and who are not buying academic books anymore as they are too expensive. The publishers are moving towards digital publications and focus on library markets. The bookshops stopped stocking academic titles, but the market for academic publishing in Germany is quite stable and is evaluated at one billion euros, though the humanities titles are decreasing. The growing audience is satisfied by open access and scholars are pressured to publish open access. Publishers also convert to open access and service provision by taking large subsidies, e.g. De Gruyter. So, it seems that the future lies with hybrid publications, digital formats, cost control, investment and acquisition. Luisa Gaggini (Casalini Libri) presented a service of Humanities and social science research works in non-english languages. This service concentrates on Italian and Spanish as well as other roman languages. She emphasised that science, technology and medical publishers are very different from humanities publishers and the application of the same criteria, principles and metrics is dangerous for them. The research community loses variation through only English language publications. Libraries change the acquisitions from just in case to just in time – PDA and ESB. All this penalizes non-English languages. Casalini Libri seeks to remedy this situation by presenting its services.
Mary Ann Kernan (City University London, UK) continued the topic of humanities in academic publishing and presented a paper titled The second Arden Shakespeare series. She tried to answer some questions about building audiences for this specific edition in an age of media proliferation by tracing slow but fundamental shifts in scholarship and education, partnership between a publisher and an author, and the consecration of scholarly works by publishers linking this to the dissemination of research results.
A different take on academic issues was introduced by Arūnas Gudinavičius, Elena Macevičiūtė and Andrius Šuminas (Vilnius University) who looked into E-books in academic libraries: finding the role in the digital environment. It turned out that though the presence of e-books is increasing in Lithuanian academic libraries many of them are not quite sure how to work with them. The proportion of Lithuanian e-books in their collections is small and does not meet the needs of the users.
The final topic of the Symposium focused on publishing studies from most pragmatic issues to more theoretical considerations.
David Emblidge (Emerson College) presented a proposal of A publishing studies online database. He presented a list of publishing studies programmes and course materials in English as well as a structure of the proposed database, including a wide variety of scholarly and educational materials and tools accessible on several levels. Rose Leighton and Miriam Rasch (Hogeschool van Amsterdam) talked about Skills for publishing and practice related methods for their development. The authors also introduced the training work of a non-curriculum based unit Publishing lab, which allows the students to implement applied projects to companies. The work with these projects helps to build their skills for publishing.
Elena Maceviciute and Tom Wilson (University of Borås) presented a paper on Divided positions and common expectations of Swedish publishers with regard to the development of e-book market. The paper was focused on the perceptions of publishers of their own roles in relation to digital books, which are not yet gaining any stronger postion, but publishers are already preparing for major changes. Anna Klamet (Edinburgh Napier University) presented a similar project on E-publishing in the small nations of the European Union. Though it was not quite clear what was meant by the small nations – national states with a limited number of local language speakers or minorities embedded in the environment of national states the author has outlined benefits that e-books are offering to small language publishers and, especially, to the survival of small publishing companies.
Franjo Pehar, Krešimir Zauder, Nikolina Peša Pavlović presented a paper Towards an ontology-based approach for publishing studies analysis. The previous work done by the authors of building a corpus of selected publications and extracts, bibliometric analysis looking for patterns in publishing related documents, and other work can serve as a basis for domain analysis of publishing studies. The authors demonstrated databases that could be used for this analysis both in quantitative and qualitative ways.
Theoretical input into the work of the conference was made by Ann Steiner and Sara Kärrholm (Lund University) who explored A paratextual turn? The authors outlined the conceptual basis of the paratextual environment surrounding a book and its history. The paratext gains new importance when the proliferation of media demands better discoverability of books. Paratextual elements acquire new uses and new forms. It also raises new methodological questions for book research. Zoran Velagić has developed the topic raised by Ann Steiner in his presentation Paratext and e-books. Both presenters acknowledged Gerard Genette’s contribution and conceptualisation of the paratext. Both have noted that para-content is introduced into the e-book publishing context with similar connotations. Zoran Velagić has emphasized that paratext enables the system that facilitates reading and serves the reader. As the new means for creating paratext are introduced by new demands and possibilities there is a need for new research and conceptual apparatus.
Establishing the European Publishing Studies Association
It is also necessary to stress that this particular Symposium gained importance of a different kind. On June 23, 2016, the participants of the Symposium have established the European Publishing Studies Association, EuroPub. There were 40 scholars present at the meeting that voted for the establishment of the Association. The participants were not only from Europe, but also from Australia and the United States. Prof. Miha Kovać was elected a President of the Association and Prof. Benoît Berthou became an Executive President. The purpose of the Association is to “Contribute to the development of Publishing studies by promoting an international academic and professional network” (EuroPub. Common rules for the Association). The Association is organizing the next conference By the Book in June of 2017 in Florence. At the moment the activity is focused on the creation of the website for the Association.
Elena Maceviciute, with some help from Ivona Despot and Tom Wilson.
Posted for Elena Maceviciute
The Book and Literature Panel (Bog- og Litteraturpanelet) in Denmark was established by the Minister of Culture in April 2014. Its activity is supported and financed by the Ministry of Culture. The panel held its first meeting on 17th, June 2014 and has held a number of meetings since then. The purpose of the panel is to follow the changes in the Danish book market by:
- Annually reviewing available statistical data of the book market, identifying the gaps and making recommendations for improvements in the statistics.
- Following the situation of quality literature situation in the light of changes in book market and reading patterns.
- Promoting the debate on the literary situation in Denmark through seminars and conferences.
The Panel consists of six to eight members who together hold expertise related to book market statistics, international book market development, literature and the sociology of literature, consumer perspectives, and reading. At present the Panel consists of five researchers from Danish universities, one from Lund University in Sweden (Ann Steiner), one doctoral student from Roskilde University, and a publishing consultant and former CEO of the Swedish Norstedt group Kjell Bohlund. The Panel is led by Professor Stig Hjarvard of the University of Copenhagen.
A reference group consisting of the representatives from the Ministry of Culture, Competition and Consumer Board, the Publishers’ Association, the Booksellers’ Association, the Danish Writers’ Association, the Association of Fiction Writers, the Library Association, and the Consumer Council follows the activity of the Panel and participates in it.
In September 2015 the Panel published its first annual report, which can be found here, and which is also available in English. It provides an interesting and multifaceted analysis of the Danish book market.
On May 3, 2016, the Book and Literature Panel organized a seminar on e-books and libraries at the Faculty of the Humanities, University of Copenhagen. The seminar consisted of two parts: a research part and a debate part.
In the first Stig Hjarvard (University of Copenhagen) presented Danish statistics about the e-book market and e-book lending. Prof. Frank Huysman from the University of Amsterdam presented the model of e-book lending practised by public libraries in Netherlands and a very interesting comparative study of e-lending models of public libraries in European countries. He has reviewed several of them showing that all of them are different and in fact there is no a single mainstream model, which was accepted by several countries. To some extent they seem to reflect library traditions with some very open and generous models of e-book lending and some very restrictive and introducing strict limitations into the e-loans. The next presenter was yours truly who presented an overview of the e-book lending situation in Sweden wandering about some stranger aspects of the emerging situation and the positions of different actors.
The second part involved two series of shorter presentations and debate with the audience. The presentations and the discussion were held in Danish and this is not the language that I understand. Most of the passionate and heated arguments and also seemingly fine jokes causing laughter in the public were lost on me. So, I will restrict myself to the factual report. Tine Vind (Head of the Library Unit at the Agency of Culture and Palaces) presented the guidelines of the cultural policy for Danish libraries. Annette Godt, the head of Allerød library talked about the acquisition decisions in the library related both to physical and e-books. Mikkel Christoffersen from Copenhagen Libraries presented a captivating account about the readers of e-books and the role of the library in attracting new readers by providing access to e-books.
The other group of panellists talked about the role of authors, publishers and booksellers on the bookmarket and their relation to public libraries. The group included two representatives of publishers (Jakob Harden and Lasse Korsemann Horne), two persons from two associtations of authors (Morten Visby and Jan Thielke), and Helle Busck Fensvig from Arnold Busck bookselling company representing Danish Booksellers Association. One could feel the tension between the commercial and public distributors of book treasures caused by the digital book, but one also can expect that more events like this one could lead to more understanding and eventually to the resolution of existing problems.
The meetings and discussions with many interested professionals from the whole Danish book sector as well as with colleagues from the research world were both exciting and rewarding. The idea of research led body helping and advising the government and monitoring the developments of book sector could be picked up by other countries.
The presentations made at the meeting can be found on the Ministry of Culture’s Website.
At the end of 2014 (December, 2) we have posted a message on this blog about the development of
common Scandinavian course by researchers from Norway, Sweden and Denmark . The initiative is
bearing the fruits as the course is running from the start of spring term 2016 at Oslo and Åkerhus University College of Applied Sciences and University of Borås. We have managed to overcome most of the administrative challenges and to test our ideas.
Of course, life has put in some corrections. The colleagues from Denmark are not running the course because of low interest among their students, but the University of Borås is running three courses simultaneously instead of one: two on reading and distribution of e-books of 7,5 ECTS:
- a free course for anyone to apply,
- a Master’s course in the programme for Library and Information Science,
- and one on reading, distribution and production of e-books of 15 ECTS (in an international Master’s programme on Digital Library and Information Services
All courses run in a distance mode with meetings in respective universities. The course started with the digital reading part and a residential meeting in Oslo on February 3-5. The main contributions of lectures and seminars were Anne Mangen (University of Stavanger) and Gitte Baling (University of Copenhagen). Adrian van der Weel (University of Leiden) took part in the session held in Oslo University College. The students who could not come to Oslo have taken part in seminars and lectures online that were also recorded and put on the e-learning platforms for further reference. That was an interesting example of using a sophisticated technological tools in higher education. The recordings included what was happening during the lectures and seminars in Oslo, but also what happened in online communication environments. More important is to note that the streaming sessions allowed two-way communication between the audience in Oslo and those participating online.
This week (February 29 – March 4) a residential period for Swedish students is organized at the University of Borås. Nineteen students have arrived and are working with teachers in lecture rooms and computer labs trying to read and make sense of publishing, book sales and book loan statistics, e-reading devices and delivery platforms, xml mark-up and e-book formats and similar things. Colleagues from Oslo University College Tonje Vold and Tor Arne Dahl have arrived to participate and help with delivery of the materials related to Norwegian book market and e-book production. We will return their courtesy later in April helping with the residential week for Norwegian students.
A highly qualified group of teachers work on the delivery of the course on the Swedish side. The production part is led by Mats Dahlström and Mikael Gunnarsson. The distribution part involves efforts from Skans Kersti Nilsson (leader of two independent and Swedish Master’s programme course), Alen Doracić (leader of the International programme course), and the author of this message.
The administrators are sighing when looking at the costs and calling it the most expensive course over the past ten years. So, just as well that we have received support from Nordplus programme (thanks to UB international coordinator Veronica Trépagny) to implement the teaching of the course for one year and support travelling of teachers around the Nordic countries.
Students have also met Martin Borg who is responsible for negotiating and working with e-books at the University of Borås Library to actually get input about actual professional issues that have to be solved when delivering e-books to academic community.
We are in the middle of the residential week and still have only partial evaluation of our efforts by the students, but most of them seem to be quite attracted by this growing part of book market and what it means to different actors on the its stage.
This course is bringing together a very agreeable bunch of students from around the world and a very creative and friendly group of people from Nordic countries.
Professor Elena Maceviciute
There’s an interesting article in Publishers’ Weekly on e-book lending by public libraries in the USA. It focuses on the work of the American Library Association’s Digital Content Working Group, and draws attention to some of the critical issues being explored by the group. These include, the number of platforms that need to be used, the pricing policies for e-books, and the impact of the cost of e-books on the other formats in the collections.
It’s true that e-book lending has gone up in the USA, with Overdrive reporting that 33 libraries in the USA had e-book loans of more than one million – but even that is a relatively small proportion of the total loans. In Sweden, e-book loans are only about 1 or 2 per cent of total loans, so one is left with the question, Is it worth the bother?
In Sweden, public libraries are required by law to make available materials in whatever format they appear, so offering e-books is not negotiable. The law could be ignored in this respect of course, on the grounds that no resources are provided to enable the law to be met, but Sweden is a law-abiding country, so this is unlikely.
In the USA, however, there is no such requirement and it is mainly the librarians’ wish to satisfy as much of the demand from their communities as possible, within the limited resources. In these circumstances, the question is valid. And some questions need to be asked to justify an appropriate policy. For example, are those who download e-books from the library site new users? Do those who borrow e-books use the library for other purposes? Are e-book users also library visitors, or do they never visit the library?
By definition, anyone who borrows e-books can afford at least the basic technology of a smart phone, and most probably have access to a tablet computer or a laptop, so they will be no means be the poorer section of the community. So how about a bit of lateral thinking: the libraries collectively do a deal with, say, Amazon for Kindle Unlimited, and with Scribd, to provide access to these services through the library Website and say to users: We aren’t going to lend e-books, but: sign up to Kindle Unlimited or Scribd and we’ll pay half the annual subscription. That might well turn out to be a great deal cheaper than buying licenses to use e-books. True – users won’t get access to most of the newly published books, but that would reduce the demand for such a service further, as, in all probability, only the enthusiastic reader would sign up.
3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PUBLISHING TRENDS AND CONTEXTS, Zadar, Croatia, 19-20 November, 2015
The third conference in this series was held this year a little further down the Adriatic coast from Pula, where the previous two conferences had been held, in Zadar, an excellent location in spite of the sometimes wet weather. Over the two days, we heard a rich programme of research on developments in publishing, with particular reference to digital publishing and the e-book phenomenon.
The first session, on Day 1, was devoted to Research methods in publishing studies, with a focus on readers. The first three papers had something in common, i.e., the nature of reading in a digital environment. Christoph Bläsi, from Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz reviewed the existing research on the effects of digital reading. He examined the limitations and controversies in the existing research and suggested further directions for the future. He has also emphasized that the publishing industry should change its attitude to readers and book consumers.
Arūnas Gudinavičius, of Vilnius University, Lithuania, reported on one such piece of research, a pilot study, carried out at the Cyprus Interaction Laboratory, employing eye movement metrics – this was very much a provisional account, as the work had been completed only a few days earlier! The outcome achieved using this research methodology, however, was quite convincingly demonstrated.
In the same vein, Mate Juric, of the University of Zadar, reported preliminary results from a PhD investigation into reading in print and in the digital evironment. In common with earlier research, Juric found that students preferred the printed text and were able to recall more from such texts than from the electronic equivalent. Ivona Despot and colleagues, also from the University of Zadar reported on an advantage of digital reading that has not been addressed to any great extent previously. That is, the connection between the electronic book and social media. Their report on social reading shows how the social media connection may enrich the reading experience. Finally, in this session, Andrius Šuminas, of Vilnius University, reported on Browsing strategies in online bookstores, again using eye-tracking software. A novel approach was adopted in developing different styles of book cover, to determine the impact of that aspect of the book on browsing behaviour. Different browsing styles and patterns were discovered and interesting differences of browsing strategies between different age groups of readers were discovered.
The second session concerned Terminology, theory, context and began with a presentation by Angus Phillips of Oxford Brookes University of the changing language of publishing through an analysis of the three most recent editions of Inside Book Publishing. He showed how, while the language of publishing remains stable to a significant extent, there has been considerable change in relation to digital publishing. Tom Wilson then followed with a presentation on the various theories of innovation that have been employed in research on the e-book phenomenon, showing that different theories are applicable depending upon the level (person, organizational or societal) at which the impact is found.
After that, Adriaan van der Weel, of the University of Leiden, asked the question about the future of the longform scholarly monograph, making a plea for attention to be paid to the scholar as ‘consumer’ of scholarly monographs rather than the present focus on the scholar as author. He noted the impact of open access publishing in this regard.
Asta Urbanaviciute, of Vilnius University, reported on her PhD work on literary periodicals in Lithuania and their migration to digital form. The study is based on the interviews with publishers of the cultural periodicals. Though they claim to be in dire economic constraints, they still prefer publishing on paper. She noted the dilemma in which publishers find themselves: the printed text is preferred, because of its physicality and long life, while the digital version has advantages in a world where social communication is increasingly moving to the digital sphere.
Next, Ana Č. Vogrinčič, of the University of Ljubljana, presented a paper on a rather different theme, a socio-historical view of the role of library space in society, drawing attention to needed changes in the light of changing societal practices in the communication of information. This contribution was well thought through and provided an interesting angle for understanding the role of the library.
Finally, Zoran Velagić, University of Osijek, Croatia, explored the functions of the page as a unit of text in both the print and digital spheres. In his witty and intelligent presentation he showed how the concept of page has influenced our thinking about online communication and digital texts. He presented the concept of a page as a foundational one in the philosophy and practice of writing and publishing.
Day 2 began with a session on research methods in publishing studies. Ruediger Wischenbart, perhaps best known for his Global e-book report, gave a very detailed account of the problems of acquiring comparable data from different countries for that report. The lack of standard definitions, and the incomplete nature of the data present real problems in delivering an international picture of the changing world of digital publishing. Ruediger impressed the audience with his detailed knowledge of the publishing world and the sources of information related to it. The lack of uniformity was addressed by Miha Kovač, University of Ljubljana, in his draft of a publishing research Website and his call for international collaboration for the production of such a site.
Elena Macevičiute, University of Borås, and a member of our E-books Research Group, reported on a bibliometric study of the research literature on e-books, showing the spheres of activity in which research is done, from librarianship and information science to the publishing sector. Another member of the Borås team, Skans Kersti Nilsson, presented preliminary results from interviews with Swedish authors on their attitudes towards e-books, which ranged from indifference to enthusiastic embrace.
Benoît Berthou, Sorbonne Paris Cité University, explored the possibilities for the improvement of publishers’ and libraries’ catalogues in terms of ease of access, interactivity and improved visibility of the content. Finally, in this session, Josipa Mijoč, Nives Tomašević and Jasna Horvat, of the Universities of Osijek and Zadar, proposed the concept of a digital-platform-based market, to replace the existing structures whereby the author’s manuscript reaches the reader, which would allow for direct communication between author, publisher, sources of finance and, ultimately, readers. The concept was elaborated in terms of the publishing situation in Croatia.
The final session of the conferences was led off by Ewa Jabłońska-Stefanowicz, of the University of Wrocław, in a presentation on the state of digital publishing in Poland, based on face-to-face interviews with representatives of the industry. She reported that, after an initial flirtation with digital publishing, publishers in Poland appear to have withdrawn from the area, while new entrants, focusing on products for the educational market, have emerged.
Josipa Selthofer and Ines Hocenski, of the University of Osijek, then presented a paper on current research into the requirements for a university press in the digital age, and the session, and the conference, concluded with a presentation by Franjo Pehar, Nikolina Peša Pavlović and Krešimir Zauder, University of Zadar, on current subject trends and research methods in publishing studies, based on an analysis of papers published in three journals identified as core publishing studies sources.
The conference ended with a city tour, highlighting the Roman and other remnants of the various civilizations that have taken an interest in this part of the world.
A number of the papers, possibly all, will be published in the next issue of the open access journal Libellarium
There’s a short film about the Project on YouTube. The commentary is in Swedish, but non-Swedish speakers may find it interesting, just as an example of publicity for a research project.
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:
At the next level, content creator would include:
printed book author
discussion list contributor
film script writer
TV programme writer
Content producer would include:
printed book publisher
film production company
TV production company
TV news programme
Content producer would probably also need some additional facets, e.g.,
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:
subscription service (e.g., Scribd or Skoobe)
publisher (who distributes from own Website)
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:
TV news viewer
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.