The publishing industry must embrace e-books and engage with the IT industry in order to reimagine book production, a Web development and publishing industry consultant expert has warned.
Speaking at the Web Directions South 2010 conference in Sydney, Web developer and founder of publishing think tank PRE/POST, Craig Mod said traditional thinking around e-book devices like the iPad and Kindle has prevented the publishing industry from moving to a new paradigm.
“[When the iPad came out], the publishing world, of course, hailed it as the ‘Jesus tablet’ that would save magazines,” he said. “The question everyone asked... was ‘how do we shove books into it?’.”
Mod said the publishing industry has often grappled with questions around how to convert books from text to a digital device.
“When we’re asking ‘how do we make books digital?’, we’re ignoring the medium and focusing on the artefact,” he said. “What do we think of when we think of a book? You used to think of a written or printed work... how do we move this [thought] to the digital device?.”
While digital books have been incorporated to the iBook app on the iPad, Mod said the application hasn’t been the success story the industry hoped for.
“We’re running into a lot of problems like phoney book borders in the iPad iBook app,” he said.
Mod said that having a collaborative approach to digital publishing will result in e-books maintaining their sentimentality.
“When you underline things in the book, it stays with you... this is one of the things that makes books so intimate,” he said.
“What I think comes out of this is that [the e-book] isn’t the death of print, it’s a shift in the way we think about it... it becomes more intimate and respectful of the form. We don’t print throw-away paperbacks anymore.”
Mod shared his own experiences, having gained 10 years experience working in Japan, as well as publishing his book Art Space Tokyo online in 2008.
The book made some $5000 in revenue when launched in hardback, but when leveraging online communities like KickStart, Mod’s book made $24,000 in revenue, as well as 300 fans who provide investment for future prospects and editions of the book.
“We now have this whole new system that allows for a different level of conversation,” Mod said. “We can have the author coming in and updating the text and it’s not this thing that comes out and is untouchable... as readers engage with it over time, they are engaging with something new.”
Mod’s insights come as web designer, Matt Balara, last week shared his insights into e-book design, saying the iBook application for iPad was one example of companies failing to take advantage of the new opportunities provided by mobile devices for the book format.