Editor's Note: What’s in a Format Anyway?
A friend of mine was diagnosed last year with a brain tumor. She underwent something like 30 days straight of chemo- therapy. She was temporarily blind, obviously extremely sick and, one would think, terrified. But her outlook during the entire process was amazing. She was optimistic, celebrated each small hurdle and kept going, seemingly undaunted by the road ahead of her. She told me that when she was diagnosed with the tumor, she had read a number of books on Kabbalah, and apparently it gave her a new perspective with which to deal with the challenges she was facing.
Aside from it hitting me, once again, how unbelievably important publishing books is to this world, it occurred to me that I didn't ask her in which format she chose to read those books. It would be a ridiculous question. The fact is, it doesn't matter.
A quote from Cengage Learning's Ron Mobed from the cover story (page 16) really struck a chord with me: "[Print] may not be as large as it's been in the past; it may be more print-on-demand. … It doesn't really matter to us. We're perfectly capable of delivering millions of print books every year; we're perfectly capable of servicing millions of online users every year. And we'll make that adjustment depending on how quickly things change in the marketplace."
That is one of the wisest and most succinctly described outlooks I've heard. People still will want to read books. Period. Format doesn't really matter, does it?
Granted, for many publishers, it's not that black and white, as adjusting to market demands takes forethought, research, investment and even culture shifts within organizations. And with so many new e-opportunities and devices out there, it can be overwhelming and confusing.
But Niko Pfund of Oxford University Press seems to address that point with another quote from the cover story: "Over the last decade, if we'd leapt at every new business opportunity dangled in front of us, we'd have spent an inordinate amount of time and resource on projects that soon evaporated, and so I think there's a real utility to being at the table, but not necessarily being the first player to make a bet."