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The impact of technology on publishing

The impact of technology on publishing
on Aug 23, 2019
The impact of technology on publishing
Technology today more than ever has a disruptive impact on publishing. The Internet, printing-on-demand and the e-book are the main drivers of change, impacting all aspects of the publishing value chain--from the way books are published (authors can go direct to the reader), distributed (electronic marketplaces), sold (e-tailers) and read (electronic books). The author examines the context of the publishing industry in which these changes are occurring, describes the main drivers and impacts of these changes and illustrates them with an example from the information publishing industry.

The Impact

Publishing is not what it once was. The Digital Revolution is in full swing in some areas of the publishing industry while in others, like STM publishing, it has been a constant feature. There is no doubt that technology has had and continues to have a dramatic impact on publishing. But in no time has it been as dramatic as it has been today. A customer has a perception of the publisher's business that is most likely based on a reality of three to five years ago--but a manager in the business thinks of the business three to five years hence. That is a gap of six to ten years between managerial and customer perception of the same publishing business, created and exacerbated by technology. What is the context in which it is happening? What drives this change? What is this impact of technology on publishing? And how does technology create value in publishing?


Publishing has been a low growth business in the last few years. The global book market has grown from $80 billion in 1997 to around $90 billion in 2000 and is forecast to only grow to $93 billion by 2002 (Figure 1). Almost in line with sluggish revenue growth, the publishing stock market index 1 has barely outperformed the market over the last few years. Only some companies have significantly outperformed the stock market, often driven by the hype surrounding new media announcements and strategies. But for every star performer, there are others who have done less well in the market (Figure 2). It is in this environment of low growth that technology is changing the rules of the game. A low-growth market implies that technology creates incremental value for publishers only by redistributing the value in the system. And already there is evidence for that in new forms of distribution and authors becoming publishers in their own right. But the global picture is not a true reflection of the diversity in the publishing market. Different sectors of the publishing industry have performed very differently. Documenting these differences is not easy--it is an irony of the publishing industry: for an industry that focuses on publishing information on everything and anything, it publishes very little about itself. However, the data that is available paints a very dynamic picture for the publishing industry.  

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