The world of books and publishing has undergone a paradigm shift thanks to the emergence of popular e-books in the consumer market place. E-publishing as we all know is the buzzword used for digital format of books, journals, magazines, reports, etc., stored in electronic or digital form. The industry has witnessed growth on account of benefits such as low cost of production, low investments, low inventory storage costs, and the opportunity to reach out to larger audience across the globe in a cost effective manner.
"Book retailers are transforming, as many customers go online to purchase. This move has put a lot of pressure on traditional chain stores to create revenue and profits. Similarly, digital books continue to gain market share, and are now estimated at 8% to10% of revenue for some major publishing," as reported by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal.
The dilemma of e-books vs. the traditional print version is a debatable subject. The older generation that is accustomed to turning pages and a physical 'book' finds it difficult to accept this new and advanced method of reading. However, the younger generation and the corporate arena are embracing the new digital format. Ease of use, convenience and mobility offered by digital information is a far more lucrative option for them instead of flipping the pages of a book.
The e-publishing market has been fuelled by a number of parallel technological advancements. The use of personal computers and handheld devices has grown exponentially over the years. And to top it all, there are a variety of lightweight and user-friendly e-book readers and handheld devices that make it easier to read on the move and the experience is much more like reading a real book. Changes in lifestyle, better broadband connectivity, increased prevalence of online courses and e-teaching, and a drive to get content immediately are some of the factors that are influencing the growth of this sector.
The emergence of internet has added variety to the range of content that can be offered in a digital format. From e-books to e-journals and e-zines -- there is a plethora of content that can be offered electronically. While reading patterns would largely depend on the nature and packaging of content, people prefer getting news updates, quick facts and ready to use information electronically. Electronic publishing (EP), from its initial mainly text-based stand-alone publication base, is fast transforming into a resource of interactive publications with rich multimedia that can be packaged in many ways and distributed in various forms across different networked environments. E-books are particularly gaining popularity in the education arena and the main reason is cost. Students find it a lot easier and cheaper to buy course related e-books online, rather than spend a lot of money on hard-copies.
However, before e-publication can become as prevalent and accepted, issues like piracy and copyright need to be addressed. The internet as a medium is highly unregulated today; plagiarism of content and violation of copyright is a big threat facing the authors. Once a book is uploaded online hackers find out ways to make it free to download. Moreover, if a person who has already bought an e-book, shares it online for free, then the publisher and authors lose a lot of revenue. To curtail this, many top publishers like B&N, offer their own version of e-book reader application that does not let buyers save copies of the book. There are many ways like login based access, IP-based access, and third-party access modes that are being implemented to stop free e-book download.
Publishers would like to e-publish their books first as a means to test the market before going to press. This is a wise and inexpensive strategy. It helps the publishers to gauge initial response to the book and in the process reduce the potential of lost revenue - including printing costs and advertising. Then, if the e-book is found favorable, printed copies will be produced for those who prefer them, which is still a majority of the market. With e-books, publishers are finding new ways of making even more money through sponsored links, in-book advertising, add-on applications, and e-book subscriptions.
While e-publishing does pose piracy and copyright issues, authors are a little wary of exploring this option. While it offers the author the benefit of reaching out to a larger audience in a more cost effective way, it is used as an addition to the print version of a book and not just a standalone means of publishing. But many small-time authors and subject matter experts are coming up with e-books that range from the most frivolous to highly technical topics.
Amazon.com some time back reported selling more e-books than paper. There are a number of sophisticated e-book readers like the Kindle, Nook, Sony's Reader, Apple iSlate, and many other mobile devices are also in the spotlight. In addition, there are many handheld and tablet devices like iPad, Galaxy Tab, Android Tab, etc., that support e-books. Sony, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble all have attractive web stores offering e-content to a huge audience that resides on the internet. e-book readers are being constantly upgraded and improved.
As predicted by all major publishing houses and the usage trends, e-books are only getting better. Greater integration and usability with widespread reading devices that can be used on the move, advanced interactivity, audio books, word meanings and pronunciations, references, quick translations, and easy search are just some of the features of enhanced e-books. The customers are demanding greater features and rich e-book content. The opportunity for publishers is expanding significantly.
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