The concept of electronic books, or e-books, has been around for some time, with early devices having been designed and manufactured since the late 1930s. In 1971, Michael S. Hart created the first electronic document by typing the US Declaration of Independence in text format on his computer so that the document could be viewed on other devices. The e-book readers were intended to store technical or reference documents that would have become too heavy if printed as paper books for the intended users. During this period, most projects related to e-books were carried out on behalf of government agencies. Document sharing became easier with the advent of Internet services in the late 1980s, and e-book readers became more reader-friendly. In 1992 Sony introduced the “Data Discman” which could read books stored on CDs. The cost of this device at the time was more than $500, which was too high to be profitable, and was discontinued within a few years.
E-book readers like Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo etc. soon became popular as alternatives to paper books. The reasons behind this habit change are many, e-books are cheaper, extremely portable, customizable in font and color, each device can store hundreds of titles/books, space saving, users can also index information, get details about other books by their favorite authors or download them Download example chapters. These devices literally put the library or bookstore in the palm of our hands, and all without leaving our chair. From a long-term perspective, one can also argue about the environmental benefits of adopting e-books, since publishing e-books requires no paper and no transportation.
How have publishers dealt with this technology onslaught?
Publishers have been using digital technologies for writing, proofreading, graphic design and printing for quite some time. However, what has really changed in the last decade is the impact of these technologies on the way we communicate, advertise, market and especially the way we read digital content. The ubiquity of smartphones and the internet means we have easy access to our favorite choices of digital content.
In a cost comparison between e-books and printed books, e-books are cheaper to publish. While we can assume that author fees, marketing costs and publisher’s staff salaries are the same for both types of published material, e-books have negligible costs associated with retail and wholesale margins, printing/reprinting of copies, paper, storage and maintenance & Logistics.
A more recent development is the emergence of self-publishing, where authors, rather than waiting to be accepted by major publishers, self-publish their material through self-help portals.
With the digital age, publishers have had to adopt stricter policies against intellectual property piracy caused by the indiscriminate sharing of digital content online. This has prompted publishers to organize workshops promoting the author and his books, conferences and webinars. The use of technology that examines data on existing and potential customers, trends and audience preferences also plays a key role in the survival of publishers.
Total global publishing revenues were $122 billion in 2018 and are expected to reach $129 billion by 2023. Of that, the e-book portion accounts for about $16 billion, indicating that e-books still have a long way to go.
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