As the year nears its end, Beyond the Book is looking back at the last twelve months of our programs. In this edition of our three-part review for 2018, CCC’s Chris Kenneally look at ways that globalization is shaping publishing as a business and a profession.
From Vienna, industry analyst Rüdiger Wischenbart recently shared highlights from his latest report, eBook 2018: Phase 02. In data he has gathered about consumers’ relationship with digital publishing across Europe, North America and Asia, Wischenbart sees the curtain about to rise on the second act in the e-book play.
“It’s so funny to see that even Steve Jobs, the big innovator, when he innovated the iPad didn’t anticipate what he would do next with the iPod and with the iPhone,” Wischenbart explains. “Because it was the iPhone which kicked off all that smartphone revolution where we are in. One of the consequences for books is suddenly we realize that not even the book is a holy grail. Suddenly, people take in the stories by listening to the stories, and they don’t just listen to them from the iPhone or the smartphone. Now they have Alexa speakers and other smart speakers in their living room read to them and reading books for them.”
Book markets around the world have much in common, from the challenges of online commerce to bestseller lists dominated by authors with internationally recognized brands. As Rüdiger Wischenbart observed, digital reading is concerned not just with books or even audiobook, but with storytelling. This brings books in whatever format into direct competition with other screen media. Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, observed at BookExpo that book-centered storytelling is in grave danger.
“It’s under attack,” he declared. “It may no longer lie with publishers. It used to be everything started with the book, and whether the film was good or bad, you came out wanting the book, right? Now, we have such fine, high-quality television coming through from Amazon Studios, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, all of them, that you get a very satisfying experience from just seeing a piece that was developed originally for television, that stays on television. No longer do you come out saying, ‘I must have the book.’ In publishing we have to keep remembering now is that our readership is someone else’s viewership and is someone else’s listenership.”
With thousands of publishers working in dozens of languages, India is the seventh-largest book publishing nation on Earth. The English-language book market alone is the world’s second largest, after the US. The Association of Publishers in India considers books to be essential to India’s future, as resources for educational ambitions and as outlets for creative expression. Nitasha Devasar, API’s newly elected president is editor of the award-winning Publishers on Publishing: Inside India’s Book Business; she detailed the multi-faceted local market in India.
The Indian market is very segmented because of the size of the country, the size of the subcontinent,” she explained. “It’s highly price-sensitive. There are also regional variations, so one size does not fit all. The positive side of that is, of course, which means both print and digital can survive simultaneously. Smaller players, medium-size, and big players can all be there. But the downside is that it makes it very complicated for people to come in.”
In the fall, the Workplace Equity Project reported on the survey’s findings. Among other results, the findings described a gap between an organizational policy that affirms respect for diversity, and the actual practice in the office and by management. Simone Taylor, a WE project co-founder, noted that staff members don’t live the policy – they live the experience. She cited a positive step that organizations can take immediately.
“Mentoring and advocacy was something that we felt could be improved. The industry has done a great deal. But I think to make really positive change, we need to go beyond mentoring to actual sponsorship and advocacy,” Taylor said. “I think [this approach] makes a significant difference in a professional career, especially for people looking to move into more responsible leadership roles. It really helps where you have somebody advocating for you to move forward.”