What a Coincidence!
Just in time for my upcoming essay on new technologies and their potential effects on the Canadian educational publishing industry, Amazon announced yesterday that they’ll be selling the Kindle in Canada.
Far be it from me (yet) to comment on whether or not the Kindle is a worthwhile purchase. But I really do sense that once it’s within Canadian borders, the slow response time of Canadian publishers to eBooks is going to be looked at as even more foolish. While there are a LOT of cons to eReaders at this point (you don’t own the book, you license it; Amazon reserves the right to delete the book after you purchase the license; Amazon’s eBook format is proprietary, etc), publishing as a whole is going to have to do some serious reckoning:
- If eBooks become more important, what will happen to book designers? Will people even consider book covers relevant anymore? If eBooks standardize page size, will our considerations towards font and layout change?
- Will people pay $10 for the pleasure of reading a book yet not really owning it? With the removal of the used book market, will sales go up or down?
At this point, I don’t plan on getting an eReader, but I’ve always been something of a late adopter when it comes to technology like this. Besides, people don’t know if Apple’s planning on making a reader of their own, and if they found a way to more fully integrate eBooks with the iPhone, we can expect yet another paradigm shift.
Publishing and Digitization
I’m studying part-time at Ryerson University in the Certificate in Publishing program offered by the Chang School. Currently, I’m taking the mandatory overview course on educational publishing, and finding that particular part of the industry to be very different from what I’ve already learned about: ancillary materials, curriculum guidelines, professionally peer-reviewed proposals, and Canadian adaptations of international works are all very new to me.
However, my next assignment will allow me to delve into a topic that’s concerned me a lot during my courses: the effect that new technologies will have on the publishing industry. How exactly can publishers expect to maintain their current revenue levels once ebooks become more widely accepted, especially considering how the music industry has foundered in the past decade? I have to write an essay on the topic of digitization in the educational publishing industry, and while I may not address the question above, it still remains relevant.
In fact, one of my current professors has actually said that he can see digital publishing hitting traditional textbook publishing “right between the eyes” in about five years time – his quote, not mine. That particular image has really affected me because it highlights, more than most others, how much of a sitting duck the publishing industry is. With people like Cory Doctorow pushing the envelope and finding not one, but several ways to sell his book outside of the traditional publishing industry, what happens when more authors follow suit? What happens if the economy tanks even further, and textbooks become even more expensive in comparison to income, thus driving up second-hand sales, online piracy and illegal photocopying, thus resulting in fewer book sales and a higher per-unit cost, thus making students even more disinclined to buy expensive texts?
These are very tough questions to answer. I can’t hope to scratch the surface on them in my essay, but they’re really food for thought.