Publishing is one of the many careers which the electronic age has turned on its head. In fact, almost any occupation which has to do with books or information has been affected. This is due partly to the way in which records are stored and read, and partly to the revolution in the reproduceability of individual pieces of writing.
A publishing company would undoubtedly find it difficult to follow exclusively its time-honoured methods in this day and age. Producing printed books is a relatively slow and expensive procedure, plus one which cannot respond quickly to the demands of the market. A publishing company whose output is the hard copy has to compete with the publishing company who can make a book available faster and cheaper, who has more control over how books are indexed and viewed, and who doesn't need to gamble in terms of how many books to print.
It's true that a large proportion of readers still prefer reading a printed book to reading text on electronic devices. They wax lyrical about the smell of books, the feel, the fact that they can physically assess their progress through a book. But the fact remains that a publishing company may need to price a printed book at up to 5 times the price of the same book in electronic format.
Perhaps it's worth paying over the odds for the experience of reading a real book; perhaps libraries or second-hand bookshops are the answer. But library stocks and second-hand books are rapidly falling behind; for the latest literature it's either a matter of shelling out for a hard copy, or joining the rest of the world in reading on electronic devices. It's worth pointing out that the second-hand book doesn't exist as a phenomenon in the electronic world.
A publishing company needs to be in control of a niche market in order to make the printed book worthwhile. The glossy coffee-table book, the practical manual – these are examples of areas where the printed book can possibly still hold its own. But even this may not be for very much longer.
A modern publishing company has to recognise the very real advantages of the electronic book. Firstly it is environmentally sound: no cutting down of trees to make paper; no waste products from printing; no transport costs in getting printed volumes to the reader. If offices are becoming paperless it seems bizarre that quantities of paper should be used to produce books when it isn't necessary.
Everything about electronic books is immediate – except preparation of the manuscript by the author or the publishing company which remains onerous. If you fancy getting a new book, you can browse around without leaving your armchair, and find plenty of information to help you make up your mind. If you've homed in on a particular book that you'd like to read, you don't have to go to a bookshop and hope it's in stock there, and order it if not, or hope your library has heard of it. You can be reading it in a matter of seconds. If you don't like it, you can 'send it back' and get a refund.
And electronic books are cheap! Multiple readers access them without really 'owning' them. Even more importantly to some, they don't occupy space, either in the home, or in the suitcase or briefcase when travelling.
The publishing company which can take full advantage of the electronic age is the publishing company which has a future.
Atul is author of countless articles on a myriad of different topics. He represents Any Subject Books,a book publisher company that offers authors the full range of modern publication, promotion and other ancillary services.
Why is the electronic book supplanting the printed book?