The introduction of the Web to the previously print-centric world of publishing was only the beginning of what has turned out to be a major overhaul of the publishing industry as a whole. Initially, we witnessed close to a complete transition of many publication types, like directories and manuals, from print to the Web, which ultimately affected the other publishing markets in varying degrees and timeframes. This transition has also brought many opportunities.
Changes in book publishing
Book production has gone through its own shifts with the introduction of digitally produced on-demand books through Web-enabled business models. This new production model was primarily driven by online distribution from companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which created an illusion that hid the minimal production times required to print books as needed/ordered. It has also facilitated shorter book runs, as well as the “book of one” concept, allowing for a new level of book customization. Since much of the book publishers’ profits were determined by their ability to manage print runs and inventory, many publishers viewed digital book production as the Holy Grail.
While book publishing has seen a significant benefit from the introduction of digital printing in reducing their cost of inventory, it is now facing another game-changing event: the disappearance of bricks-and-mortar book stores as a direct result of online sales from Amazon and other online retailers. In addition to losing a significant distribution point, many specialty book publishers have been forced to try to use online channels to sell books that would normally be sold in a physical retail location.
Book publishers somewhat shunned the true impact of the Internet on its industry until the introduction of electronic book readers, smartphones and tablet devices that enable ubiquitous access to a virtual library of hundreds of thousands of books. The introduction and adoption of these new devices and channels, however, has accelerated the shift away from printed book production. The introduction of tablet devices has also now started to impact the other publishing markets as well, including magazines and newspapers. Anecdotally, while the Internet and Web browsers offer a “lean forward” experience that is very successful for certain applications, many publishing-based applications are better suited for a “lean back” experience. Reading books and magazines are perfect examples of what the tablets and portable devices will support.