Digital Technologies in Australia’s book Industry




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2011




tekniche pty ltd


Dennis Perry





[digital Technologies in Australia’s book Industry]

An update to the Jul 2010 report looking at technologies available to authors and readers; the two ends of the book industry supply chain



Contents


Contents 2

What happened and what’s happening? 5

What happened? 5

The Internet and markup languages 8

What’s happening? 10

What’s an author, or publisher, to do? 14

How do people find out now which books to read? 15

How will people find out about which books to read in the future? 17

How am I going to read my eBook? 19

Web pages 19

Apps 19

Downloadable files 20

Which is the best device to read an eBook on? 21

How am I going to get my eBook? 22

Eating your own dog food 23

My iPhone (2011) 27

Piracy 29

Taste 30

Legals 30

Afterword 34

Thanks 34

Disclaimer 34

Style matters 34




Aim of the Update

Since the release of the Digital Technologies in Australia’s Book Industry report in July 2010, there have been further developments that warrant consideration and discussion. The original report looked at the digital technologies across the supply chain. This update will focus on the ends of the supply chain: the writers and the readers - for it is in these two areas where innovation has been accelerated by technological changes.

Above all, the aim is to provide some helpful advice, and a glimpse into the future.

It is also inevitable that change will occur in these areas if you accept Kevin Kelly’s1 definition of technology as a verb:

“No longer a noun, technology was becoming a force - a vital spirit that throws us forward or pushes against us. Not a thing but a verb” (2010: 41).

The other parts of the supply chain have been dealt with in other research reports and workshops and the like, as part of the Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) work. However, the results of a Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) survey were presented to the BISG late in its deliberations. This survey sought the views of authors and publishers on digital publishing in Australia. There were also presentations to BISG from Apple, Google and Sony which have tended to look at what’s available for the reader. Both these types of presentation were followed up, and were useful to frame the updated material.

If we take something from Brian Arthur’s2 definition of technology “as a means to a purpose”, then the production of a book is a technology and it can be considered to have subparts, which in themselves are technologies. So rather than just looking at an industry we are looking at a series of interconnected technologies, where each can evolve or interact with other parts. For example an airplane has subparts like engines, wings, wheels, fuselage, avionics and so on. The change from propeller-based engines to jet-based engines ripples through the entire technology of the airplane. The change from books as scrolls to books as a codex was a profound change in format. The availability of books in a digital form opens even more possibilities.

The expression “perfect storm” has been used to describe the state the book industry finds itself in. To continue the nautical theme, perhaps, with apologies to John Singleton Copley, a more appropriate description is afforded by his 1778 painting “Watson and the Shark”. The less obvious point to note in using this painting to describe the industry is that we are all in the same boat.

It is in all our interests to make sure that things of value do not disappear.

Books can also be gifts, and without a printed book, we are left with an iTunes, or equivalent, gift card: virtual money to buy a virtual book.



John Singleton Copley “Watson and the Shark” 1778

At the inaugural Online Journalism Symposium in 19993, Peter Zollman commented that “...with the possible exception of the town crier, no old medium has been put out of business by the new medium. Newspapers have not been put out of business by radio. Radio was not put out of business by television and so forth and so on. I don't believe for a second that newspapers will be put out of business by the new world of online media. I don't think that any of us believe it, certainly not in our lifetimes and maybe not for a long time to come.”

There is no doubt that a radical shift is happening, but it’s as much as giving people choices and recognising that the consumer now has the power to shop around, and shop around globally, and purchase material in a form that suits them. This is the challenge, to adapt to consumers who now ask not why, but why not? Michael Zifcak4, quotes a 1982 UNESCO Congress on Books that decreed “… we should never talk about ‘the future of the book’ … [but] talk about the ‘book in the future’, which takes for granted the book’s continuing existence but accepts that its function and influence may well change.” And we can add changes to format and availability.
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