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.