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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


The death of the publishing industry?

By Matt Jenner, on 17 January 2011

The e-book was introduced decades ago to a minimal reception, few devices having the capability of understanding the files and even fewer people appearing interested in the idea of reading digital books. This is changing, devices such as the Kindle and the iPad have shown that books may indeed be not just read on an electronic device, but perhaps even preferred.

So much is changing that now the content creator is fast becoming the publisher, setting their own rules, including the end price, of their works. But is this the end?


Traditionally people didn’t know how to get their works published. The idea of sending it to a distant country and shipping back containers full of printed material is daunting or financially impossible. However, now they can just convert to PDF and make their work accessible on a multitude of devices and with instant delivery and their own set price (all of which goes directly to the author).

Is this really the end, or just a new chapter?

Well actually it’s not the death of the publishing industry at all, if anything a little adaption to a changing market may be needed but companies such as Pearson have been doing this for many years. Traditionally the enjoyment of a book was the way that it felt in your hands, finding it on the shelf and lending/giving it to a friend or family member.

Progression from the book to, say an iPad version, will ensue changes, for example no book could ever have a video playing on the page or a 3D artefact jumping out at you as you turn the page (although pop-up books try…) but augmented reality is slightly different, the object can move around and be interactive.

The idea of the death of the publishing industry is unfounded, firstly they are here to act as significant filters, ensuring they uphold their levels of quality and people can trust their products. They can also be innovators and leaders in new trends and ideas, why be afraid of a development when it can be embraced?

The publishing industry is very much alive, if anything the chances for new and exciting times are ahead, where there is more transparency between the author and the reader, the content and the imagination and the variety of formats for which we can share knowledge and ideas.