Electronic Publishing – Here and Now

Reading in electronic form has been a growing trend for the past few years. With some people, it has raised fears about the potential effect on reading, on authorship, and on the quality of the written word.

Print based reading is destined for the realm of collectibles; a curiosity. Reference Books in print were the first casualty of electronic publishing. Encyclopedia Brittanica announced in March 2012 that after 242 years, its print publication would cease. Wikipedia has become the standard for the encyclopedia. Other forms of publication will follow.

Newspapers all have gone electronic. At first their web based content supplemented the print version, and was offered for free. Now many newspapers are charging for their Web content, while print subscriptions continue to decline. The fact is more and more people enjoy reading their news on their computers or their tablets. And news in that form can be updated frequently, and therefore be kept more timely. Also, it can be interactive, which has some appeal for many readers.

The advent of electronic news has been accompanied by the rise of blogging. Since anyone can set up a blog in a matter of minutes, this raised the fear that journalism would die, or decline. However, the opposite has happened. Many professional journalists have entered into blogging and offer some of the best content on the web. We still need good journalists with their training for sourcing, analysis and balance.

Magazines are widely available in electronic format. However, they usually differ from newspapers in that, although they have websites, the most popular form has been downloadable versions of the print copies designed for use on e-readers and tablets. This does not affect the form of the magazines much, but rather simply changes the media from print to electronic. It does, however, offer up the possibility of using multimedia, which some magazines have been doing. Also, the e-version is usually available long before the print version makes it’s way through the postal system.

Textbooks are rapidly moving to tablet format. Apple has signed with the major publishers for its iPad, making textbooks available to students at a fraction of their cost in print. This is the future of textbooks. The vision of students with large backpacks full of books will be consigned to the history books and late night movies.

Literature and other conventional reading material such as novels in print will be the last to go. But the trend is well established. The availability of e-books through the Kindle, Kobo, iPad, and other Tablets is leading the way for the decline of paper publishing. Earlier this year, the Society of American Publishers announced that e-books now comprises 20% of the total book market. Research suggests that 50% of all reading will be done electronically by 2015.

e-books are less expensive, often selling for prices like $1.99 rather than $19.99 for paperbacks. Moreover, there are opportunities for writers to self-publish in e-format and obtain royalties on the 80% range as opposed to the conventional 15 – 20% for print publications.

Will eBooks represent the decline of literacy? Definitely not. In fact they increase the range of creativity in ways that were not possible for print.