ipadbooksFuturebook has an article looking at a recent discussion in Soho held as part of a “Future of Publishing” conference series. As the piece points out, it seems like you can’t turn around without running into another conference or other event trying to determine how to deal with the “future of publishing”, but this series differs in that it tends to offer some hands-on exercises aimed at finding practical solutions.

A few interesting things that came out of this discussion include the contention that, even though e-book readers and tablets have taken off in the last few years, the amount of time spent on screen-based reading is actually decreasing.

Some ascribed this to device convergence and the greater choice available to today’s consumers. Though the rise of the smartphone and tablet has made it easier for readers to continue their reading in the bus queue or the doctor’s waiting room, it has also offered them a range of other media to compete for their time, from games and the web to films and television programmes; even the Kindle offers magazines and syndicated blogs as an alternative to ebooks.

It was also suggested that readers might be finding less time for reading lengthy works, which suggests that e-publishing programs concentrating on shorter works (such as Amazon’s Kindle Singles program) might be the way to go.

Another topic participants raised is that the prevalence of electronic reading should make it easier than ever for publishers to get a handle on readers’ habits and find out exactly what they want so they can meet customers’ needs better. However, companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google have proven unwilling to share that sort of information with publishers.

And there were also echoes of a point that has been raised time and again: the suggestion that publishers are being held back in a digital world by processes that evolved to deal with print, and need to develop new skills to work in the world of the web and social networking. Publishers need to be willing to experiment with new formats, though this can be a costly process.

I suppose that with so many conferences trying to help publishers find their way into the digital future, sooner or later they’ll have to, right?


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.