Following on from last week’s thoughts on the difference between reading on a screen and reading in print, we thought this week we’d take a gander at digital publishing’s place in the landscape. It has its critics, but e-publishing is a billion-dollar industry and there are some distinctly positive effects of this new way of publishing.
From making self-publishing that much easier to improving accessibility, the e-book is definitely here to stay.
Digital publishing has paved the way for authors to publish and distribute their work independently, and for small publishers to be more creative with their offering – plenty of work that might never have seen the light of day in times gone by is now available for the world to see.
The advantages of e-publishing…
Digital books are more accessible to a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The cost of books can be a huge barrier to children from low-income households having access to books, and some areas have poor access to libraries and other educational resources. Although not all E-books are cheaper than print books, there is a wealth of free or low-cost reading material out there which can drastically improve low-income households’ access.
Print books can present a huge number of challenges to people with a wide range of physical or neurological disabilities; from the print being too small to needing braille or audio versions for the visually impaired, to fonts which make reading nearly impossible for those with dyslexia.
E-books can make use of tools such as text-to-speech, customisable text magnification, colour- contrast changes – and some even have compatibility with assistive technology devices, making reading much more accessible to the disabled community.
For writers and publishers
While this is more of a bonus than a central benefit for established publishers, the low cost of publishing is fantastic for independent publishers and authors. It enables them to get their work out there without breaking the bank, and affords small publishers more creativity with their offering, as there’s less need to pander to the most lucrative market to break even.
A major difference between print and digital is that with digital, edits can be made after a text has been released. Obviously – or at least, hopefully – we aren’t talking about anything Orwellian; you won’t find authors going back to change major plot points and then claiming we were always at war with Eurasia. But finding a typo in an already published print book is the kind of niggling irritation that just doesn’t go away – and having an e-published version means authors can go back, fix it, and stop lying awake at night furious about it.
Improved marketing possibilities
While it’s possible to monitor print book sales in terms of pure numbers, it often takes a long time to gather any meaningful data and it’s hard to draw conclusions about demographics. Digital publishing allows data to be collected instantly, and it can provide information about the audiences engaged, which can help with future marketing strategies and help build a dedicated audience.
Print publishing remains the most popular way to consume books – in 2018-2019, only 25% of readers preferred digital texts to physical. However, e-publishing is an industry that has many advantages and is only set to grow in the coming years.