Lack of Book Readers Poses Significant Challenge

by | May 15, 2008

Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan is offering “A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century” in six parts on the firm’s blog.

Here’s one paragraph from the initial entry:

Publishers – and, importantly, authors – will need increasingly to accept huge cultural and social and economic and educational changes and to respond to these in a positive and creative way. We will need to think much less about products and much more about content; we will need to think of ‘the book’ as a core or base structure but perhaps one with more porous edges than it has had before. We will need to work out how to position the book at the centre of a network rather than how to distribute it to the end of a chain. We will need to recognise that readers are also writers and opinion formers and that those operate online within and across networks. We will need to understand that parts of books reference parts of other books and that now the network of meaning can be woven together digitally in a very real way, between content published and hosted by entirely separate entities. Perhaps most radically, we will have to consider whether a primary focus on text is enough in a world of multimedia mash-ups. In other words, publishers will need to think entirely differently about the very nature of the book and, in parallel, about how to market and sell those ‘books’ in the context of a wired world. Crucially, we will need to work out how we can add value as publishers within a circular, networked environment.

From a business perspective, I don’t disagree with Lloyd. But from a book lover’s perspective, I still want a physical book to read, one with lots of ideas expressed in words.