Is publishing “dying”? On FutureBook, Vicky Hartley expresses doubt. She points to a number of great new multimedia apps on tablets that demonstrate some publishers are finding ways to use the new capabilities of tablets to reach out to readers better than ever before. Heuristic Media’s London – A City Through Time is one example, and the works of children’s book-based-app publisher Nosy Crow are another.

I’ll admit to being rather impressed by the trailer on London’s website, but I think it might be a bit premature to generalize from just a few book-related apps like this to the entire publishing industry. While interactivity might be great for non-fiction works that seek to cover a particular subject in extremely detailed scope, or for illustrated children’s works that also serve as learning tools, it’s not going to do anything for the fiction market.

But on the other hand, perhaps I’m being too specific. Hartley’s overall thesis seems to be that there are plenty of opportunities for publishing to adapt and survive to the new technological world in general. There’s no reason the opportunities for fiction publishers should necessarily look anything at all like those for non-fiction or children’s books.

Of course, the question remains whether publishers actually will take advantage of those opportunities. The bigger houses haven’t seemed that eager to do so so far. On the other hand, smaller operations like Baen and O’Reilly have been innovating for years.


  1. A nice summation of my article Chris – my vis are biased to non-fiction because I work for a non-fiction illustrated publisher and, unlike some of my fiction colleagues, ebooks aren’t able to properly represent what we do (IMHO) so I find the bold and innovative steps we are taking with apps encouraging for my end of the industry. It’s nice to see us looking at the way we have created content and adapting it for a changing market of readers.

    I think that we need go further as an industry and see the change in people media consumption as a threat but as an opportunity. I shall steal a line from one of favourite films (strictly ballroom) and say ‘a life lived in fear is a life half-lived’ – if we don’t embrace the opportunities now presented to us and start to adapt our business models than we risk not living in the digital world at all. And to be honest if we can’t rise to that challenge someone else will and good for them, because despite us having all the tools necessary to innovate there are some publishing folk who believe we shouldn’t have to.

    I have a (very nearly) 4 year old son who can navigate my iPad, my iPhone and my kindle (though he thinks that really dull) as well as me – his generation will grow up with a respect for the physical object but will expect to get their information digitally and we should be making sure that we are agile enough, innovative enough and fearless enough to be the ones providing it for them.

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