The disappearance of the paper book and its transfer to electronic book took place in the last few decades as a very present theme in the developed world; first as a prediction, then as a topic of many books, magazines, websites and blogs, and also as a subject of scientific conferences, round tables and other gatherings
In the mid 90’s there have been many fevered speculation about the impact of digitization in the publishing industry and the disappearance of printed book. Many thought that it was possible, if not probable, that printed book would quickly go away in the same way that Vinyl records have. Many consulting firms in the late 90’s predicted that within a few years, e-books will prevail in the market. Expectations have also risen due to the initial success of the publishing experiment – electronic publishing of Stephen King’s novel. This novel could be downloaded at a price of two and a half dollars, and the result was beyond all expectations: in the first 24 hours there were 400,000 downloads. However, it turned out that this was not the case with other works. Publishers who have experimented with the publication of books in e-book format have experienced the disappointment due to the very low level of acquisitions.
Because of all this, in the late 2000’s there was a big skepticism about the possibility that the digital revolution will transform the publishing industry. To explain why e-books in the beginning have not been received as many expected, employed in publishing houses cited a number of reasons: hardware problem, problem in the format, copyright and prices.
In the early 2000’s only rare in the publishing world believed that electronic publications could provide quick financial success. It turned out that the cost of translation in electronic format is much larger than it could be assumed in the 90’s, so the earnings in many cases barely managed to cover the costs.
However, drastic changes in electronic publishing happened with the emergence of Sony’s reader in the US in 2006 and Amazon. Kindle reader in 2007. Once the Kindle became available, sales grew dramatically. The rapid growth has resumed in the 2009. Still, the growth in sales of e-book then was not of great importance for the US publishing houses because it brought only one percent of their total income. Despite that, the release of Kindle reader on the market was huge. After a decade of disappointing sales of electronic books, Kindle stimulated sales just enough to force the other hardware manufacturers to sit down and pay attention.
As in any industry, in recent years there have been many debates on the subject of electronic publishing: we have, on the one hand, digital optimists that remain convinced that the revolution of electronic books will happen in the end, on the other hand we have digital skeptics who remain loyal to the traditional printed book. Somewhere in between, there are digital agnostics – those who do not declare themselves about how the future will unfold and who continue with their lives while the technological revolution take its course. Whatever group you belong to, in the electronic publishing debate, many believe that if it is accepted that the book is only one medium, whether electronic or printed, the main issue is the difference between reading printed or electronic books. In any case, most agree that electronic publishing has several advantages over printed. If it would be necessary to allocate most of them, reasons would be economic, hyper-textual, interactive and, as a result of all this, democratic.
The latest reports of big losses in electronic publishing show that printed books have taken precedence again and it seems it will remain that way. However, ups and downs in e-publishing have been happening before; the initial optimism in the beginning of 90s has been replaced by serious doubts, but by launching the Kindle readers, e-books have taken precedence over printed. In contrast to this unstable situation on the market from the very beginning, e-books are by their appearance caused so much controversy and future predictions like no other media before. Many have predicted the end of the printed books, and thus the end of an entire civilization, others have announced digital culture as a whole new way of life, only some of them hesitated to describe the changes as revolutionary and the most agreed that e-books have many advantages over printed. Would anyone dare to predict anything now?
Author will take part in debate ‘The Digitisation of the Publishing Industry’ during The 2nd Industry Forum in Karpacz, December 8-10 [LINK].