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Book Value Categories and the Acceptance of Technological Changes in English Book Production


Simon Rosenberg

For more than 20 years now, the publishing industry has been highly influenced by innovations in digital technology. This is not the first time that technological changes affect the book trade. Both the printing press and industrialized production methods vitally changed the book industry in their time. With a macroscopic, comparative approach, this book looks at the transitional phases of the book of the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries to locate distinctive patterns in the acceptance of new technologies. Using specific book value categories, which shape the acceptance context of innovations in book production, helps us find continuities and discontinuities of these patterns. It also offers a better understanding of current developments in publishing in the digital age.

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4. The Digital Age

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4. The Digital Age

Abstract: Despite several potential advantages like, for example, ease of access, multimedia or affordability, digital publishing has not yet completely replaced traditional publishing and physical books. In fact, it might never do so. A look at the major developments of the last 20 years reveals several aspects that not only supported, but also hindered a complete acceptance of digital books. Stephen King’s online experiments with Riding the Bullet and The Plant were probably too early to create the revolutionary effect that would have made King the “publishing industry’s worst nightmare.” Almost ten years later, it became apparent that rather than big author names it might be big tech companies that could have a much stronger impact on the possible complete acceptance of technical innovations within the book industry. A look at statistics both before and after the introduction of relevant gadgets like e-readers and tablet computers stresses this correlation.

Keywords: digital age, digitization, digital publishing, digital revolution, print culture, digital culture, e-books,  publishing industry, acceptance of e-books

The book in codex form has developed over centuries, and it still consists of “lines of black words […] placed on white paper, arranged in a sequence of pages, and made up into a book that can be placed at a comfortable distance for reading.”754 Therefore, a complete acceptance of the e-book and preference over the printed book would be the first dramatic change since the transformation from scroll to codex. The aim of this chapter is to discuss general developments and trends in digital publishing. It offers a succinct overview of the development of digital forms of the book and critically discusses possible advantages and disadvantages of developments towards digital content and creating the choice between digital and print books. It is not a biased attempt to defend the quality, importance and value of the printed book in codex form. As Adriaan van der Weel has stated about new technologies: “A scholar’s task is not to resist, but to observe and analyse the developments and their potential consequences dispassionately.”755 Neither is this chapter intended to be an instruction for publishers to ensure a successful transition from printed book to digital text. Its aim is to analyse the current situation and stress the differences of this possible transitional phase compared to the previously discussed phases. Rather than showing ←189 | 190→similar patterns pointed out in chapters 2 and 3, the digital age offers more discontinuity within these patterns.

The “digital age” stands out from the previous parts of this study for several reasons. First of all, in comparison to printed books, e-books are tertiary mediums since technology is needed to decode the text. This is an important distinction, especially because tech giants influenced (and still influence) the acceptance and possible preference of digital books with their reading devices.

Another problem for this chapter is the fact that the time frame can only be roughly set. Whereas the introduction of printing and the impact of the industrialization on the book market in the West are time frames that can be located more clearly, this chapter approaches a time which is much harder to pinpoint. Chapters 2 and 3 discussed technical changes that led to supersessions of the previous production processes and their power applications for the book. Now, in the year 2020, it is not foreseeable when, or even if, physical books will be replaced by digital alternatives. The current simultaneous existence of printed books and e-books may be a permanent situation. In other words, the digital age might not necessarily be a transitional phase with a complete acceptance and preference of a new technology and supersession of an older one. A similar possibility was true in the fifteenth century, when the supersession of the manuscript by the printed book was entirely unsure.756 Since this transitional phase has not seen its completion, the approach to the topic here is not a historical one as in the previous two chapters. Rather, this chapter argues from a media studies perspective.

Finally, the previous two chapters both focussed on the English book market. The same narrowing of national boundaries for this chapter would be unnecessary and, indeed, a non-sensical decision. Still, English as the lingua franca of the twenty-first century, is one of the most relevant languages for digital publishing as the global market for English texts is huge.

As uncertain as the end of the transitional phase of the digital age is, so is its beginning a blurred boundary. As John Thompson has pointed out, the publishing industry turned digital long before the introduction of popular e-readers and tablet computers. In other words, publishers accepted digital technology very early on. Thompson calls it the “hidden revolution” and speaks of the implementation of electronic and digital technology within the publishing industry from operating systems and content management to sales, marketing and content delivery.757 Van der Weel’s monograph Changing Our Textual Minds (2011), ←190 | 191→though approaching a broader scope of the impact of the current influence of technological developments, offers helpful impulses for this chapter. For a start, van der Weel’s notion of the ‘universal machine’ offers an apt starting point for the time frame. He makes out the computer as a ‘universal machine,’ because it runs digitally and electrically and therefore converges all possible modalities of mediums (text, illustrations, video and sound) and runs in a network (in this case the World Wide Web).758 What is taken for granted nowadays has had a huge impact on the way textual processes could take place:

The Internet – and later the World Wide Web – is just one of the many things that the computer has been deployed to create. The printing press could do only one thing: multiply text. The computer, by contrast, is the most versatile machine ever devised by humans. Even just with regard to medial applications, its possibilities are limitless. Besides text, it now also processes still images, sound, and moving images digitally. The Internet may be regarded as the ‘ultimate’ medium. Unlike any other medium, the computer-in-a-network connects not only all links in the communication chain of production, distribution, and consumption but also other modalities, and so allows the ultimate convergence of all traditional mediums. It unites virtually all properties of all existing mediums.759

Rather than taking the term ‘digital’ too literally for a time frame of this period, it will exclude the first changes of digital technology within the publishing industry and will focus on the moment when texts reach the reader in a digital format. The year 2000 seems like a valid starting point. Not only because of its neatness and because it symbolizes a new age, but also because it saw the enormous rise and acceptance of the World Wide Web and offered a new way how people could encounter textual information. Stephen King’s online-only publication in that year, the novella Riding the Bullet, offers another good reason for the year 2000 as a beginning for a time frame. Due to the enormous success by using a, then, new distribution possibility, King hoped to become the “publishing industry’s worst nightmare” and was hailed (and feared) as a harbinger of a new age in publishing.

Until then, the printed book never seemed to be threatened by digital alternatives. In general, it was seen as the superior format of textual information: the physical book is extremely user-friendly because nothing seems easier than turning the pages and reading a clear black text on white paper. A printed book never runs out of batteries, it is unlikely that it breaks when it is dropped on the floor. It is almost a work of art with an overall attractive design. Most ←191 | 192→importantly though, the physical book is a social object which can be borrowed among friends and displayed to everybody to signify what matters to you.760 None of this, especially the symbolic value, seemed even remotely possible with a digital book. It is physically not existent and merely offers content. With the printed book, the form and the content are inseparable. These were the usual reasons given in the literary and arts sections of newspapers and magazines why the preference of digital books may never come.

However, these arguments might also be labelled as a naïve and short-sighted assessment of the overall situation. The medium ‘book’ seems to be an emotionally charged artefact that is prone to subjective assessment. In fact, some of those arguments praising the printed book are quite similar to the critical comments about print in the fifteenth century. Indeed, the attempts to establish digital publishing are readily compared to the age of the printing press, even in academic works. George Bornstein and Theresa Tinkle for example “agree with the proposition that the shift from print to digital culture has analogies in scale and importance to the shift from manuscript to print culture beginning in the Renaissance.”761 The main parallel in those developments would be the broader distribution of texts, which might ultimately lead to further democratization of knowledge. Eisenstein’s Printing Press as an Agent of Change, for example, is seen by many as a useful read to try to understand how current digital developments might shape and change civilization nowadays.762 Alan Liu argues that developments towards digital publishing also bear similarities with the age of industrialization. Apart from the rapid social, economic, political and cultural developments that both centuries share, the rapid development of technology especially for storing and managing information makes it worthwhile to compare them.763 Rachel Ablow also sees similarities between the Victorian book trade and the digital age: “Like the Victorians, we are witnessing a vast shift in popular practices and conceptions of reading. In an age of Web, text-messaging, Twitter, and Kindle, many have asked how changing protocols of reading will affect our culture more generally.”764 Kate McDonald ←192 | 193→and Marysa Demoor even argue that “[t];he reprinting of novelette fiction can be viewed as the Victorian equivalent of a television programme’s rerun, with repeats as a selling-point.”765 The enhanced school system of the Victorian age also led to children teaching parents how to read just like the so-called digital natives were (and to some extent still are) teaching their parents how to cope with modern technology.766 These arguments have valid points. However, it should be stressed again that acceptance of innovative technologies in the nineteenth century was, at times, rather slow and faced opposition, especially from the side of production.

What follows will be a brief survey of the most important steps in the history of the e-book along with a basic introduction of relevant terms concerning digital publishing. With the passing of time, hardware, as well as digital publishing formats have become multifarious and a clear distinction is necessary because different formats allow different possibilities. This is followed by a brief account of Stephen King’s first steps in digital publishing, which caused a sensation within the publishing industry. When King’s digital publishing project failed with his serialized work The Plant, digital publishing seemed to have been a passing craze. King’s experiments were also an impetus for John Thompson to discuss the situation of digital publishing a few years later in 2010. His arguments for advantages and disadvantages of digital publishing are critically reflected here. Coincidentally, the year 2010 also saw the introduction of the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer, which also had a vital impact on the context of acceptance of digital publishing. Summaries of The Bookseller’s digital census results from 2010 and 2013 shed light on the mood within the publishing industry before and after the iPad release, respectively. All these considerations will be connected to the book value categories.

4.1. Context: Introduction of the E-Book

The first idea of storing and accessing texts in a way that resembles what digital computers do nowadays was conceived by Vannevar Bush in 1945. In his now ←193 | 194→famous article “As We May Think” (1945),767 Bush is lamenting about the limited possibilities to handle the ever-growing amount of information, especially in science. His solution was a fictional instrument he labeled “memex” (short for memory extender):

A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.768

Even though admittedly, the physical description of his memex machine is not similar to current e-readers or smartphones, the basic idea behind his machine is surprisingly close to what the digital age offers nowadays. The memex is fast, flexible and offers a large amount of storage, albeit with the technology of microfilm.

The first real attempt to store texts digitally and eventually distribute them digitally was executed in December 1971, when Michael S. Hart, from the University of Illinois, manually entered the United States Declaration of Independence into a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer.769 The project, labelled “Project Gutenberg,” gradually took on more and more volunteers as the scope grew. The idea was to digitally archive texts that were out of copyright and thus in the public domain. Until 1989, all texts were manually entered into the system. From then on, imaging equipment with optical character recognition (OCR) became available and helped the project.770 Project Gutenberg offers most works in plain text using US-ASCII and can be considered one of the earliest stages of e-books.

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A more sophisticated (and commercial) approach to texts in digital form was included in the Macintosh application If Monks had Macs, programmed by Brian Thomas and Philip A. Mohr, Jr. in 1988. The programme is hard to categorize as it offers elements of computer games as well as serious features. The user could solve puzzles and enjoy interactive games, but also access out of copyright full texts to read on screen as, for example, Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. If Monks had Macs was initially released on 800K diskettes, which were, due to their very limited storage space, bound to be a transitional medium to store data.

In the early 1990s, the introduction of the CD-ROM with its 650 MB storage capacity offered many more possibilities for digital content. Free titles on CD-ROM were distributed to encourage consumers buying CD-ROM drives. Apparently, with success:

By 1993, 4 million CD-ROM players had been sold in the US market; large publishing firms, which had hesitated to enter the market as long as e-books were diskette-based and limited in size, now jumped in. CD-ROM book sales reached nearly $1 billion by 1994, with more than 8,000 titles, ranging from the Bible to reference and business books, and from fiction to children’s literature. Bookshop chains were encouraged to set aside CD-ROM sections for the new e-books, and the industry began to float the first of many pronouncements of the end of print.771

A consequential transition of books from print to CD-ROM, however, was not achieved: the stagnating user base of computer owners with CD-ROM drives made it difficult for the CD-ROM market to grow efficiently. Librarians also inhibited the distribution of texts on CD-ROM as they allegedly found it hard to catalogue them as books. The CD-ROM was eventually used to return to oral traditions by functioning as an audio book, on which the spoken words of a text were stored rather than in typographical form. Since audio CDs could only store about 74 minutes of recording (before the introduction and wide acceptance of compressed audio coding formats), they were also cumbersome since audiobooks consisted of several discs.

Eventually, the introduction and growth of the World Wide Web enabled computers to become what van der Weel calls the ‘universal machine.’ It is this moment when the digital age really takes off. Digital files were available via the ←195 | 196→internet and consequently, the digital text was freed from its carrier (diskette, CD-ROM).

The e-book is a relatively young medium, and it is difficult to come up with a clear definition, since the term does not describe one definite form. Further, the term has been used in various ways during the last decades and needs to be clarified to avoid confusion. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, offers a broad definition: “A hand-held electronic device on which the text of a book can be read. Also: a book whose text is available in an electronic format for reading on such a device or on a computer screen; (occas.) a book whose text is available only or primarily on the Internet.”772

The term ‘e-book’ therefore commonly refers to both the text in digital form as well as to the portable devices manufactured to read them. Gardiner and Musto argue that the reading of the word ‘e-book’ as the reading device has been forced in the late 1990s by their manufacturers: “This effort emanated from a ‘book as object’ perspective, particularly ‘the book as commercial object’, weighing mass and price against cultural practice.”773 This attempt would have indicated the strong connection of the word ‘book’ with physical aspects and potential symbolic values. However, the first quotation of the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1988 and thus contradicts this statement, as ‘e-book’ even then already described the technology rather than the text: “Things to come… The E-book, a small, hand-held, flat recording device able to replay text as a portable cassette player replays sound.”774 Further confusion is caused by the continuing development of various formats publishers choose to distribute digital content. In the widest sense, an ‘e-book,’ no matter which format, is a digital file and has a “monographic character,” as Daniela Zivkovic suggests.775 However, for a satisfying analysis, a typology of e-books is necessary. For the arguments offered below, it does make a difference if an e-book is the text in PDF-format emulating the page design, or whether it is a text that is displayable on a dedicated reading device and hence is able to adjust to screen sizes and so on. It also makes a difference if the e-book was formatted and programmed to be used on a tablet computer and thus has the ability to use all multimedia ←196 | 197→functions this technology offers, which is not possible with current dedicated e-readers.

1) ‘e-texts’: works in plain text based on character encoding standards (for example US-ASCII/UTF-8). Examples can be found in the Project Gutenberg database.

2) ‘PDF-ebooks’: e-books in “portable document format,” developed by Adobe in the 1990s, that emulate the page design of the material book.

3) ‘Standard e-books’: e-books in epub, mobi or AZW-file formats (usually in XML) that are recognized by most e-book-readers, tablets and smartphones. Such files usually have the ability to add a “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) layer.

4) ‘Enhanced e-books’: dedicated to tablet computers that support multimedia elements not supported by standard e-books (sound and video, display of colour). IBA, the format of Apple’s programme “iBook Author” is one example. However, usually, enhanced e-books are written as programmes and downloadable as an “app,” that is, an application to be used on tablets or smartphones. Therefore, those digital publications have to be written specifically for every operating system.

The importance of the reading device was also stressed by Padmini Ray Murray and Claire Squires, who offered a revised communications circuit for the digital age based on Darnton’s model. In fact, Murray and Squires offer several versions of the Circuit for the digital age with different focal points: digital publishing in general, self-publishing in the digital age and readers in the digital publishing communications circuit. All three offer a box on the left side dedicated to the “device” and connecting it to the reader and thereby echoing Darnton’s box for the binder in the eighteenth century.776

Further, to avoid confusion, a few preliminary elaborations on terminology are necessary. This chapter will use the following terms and meanings:

‘(dedicated) e-reader’ for devices specifically designed to display electronic texts as, for example, Amazon’s Kindle.

‘tablets’ or ‘tablet computers,’ which are mobile computers based on an operating system with touchscreen technology. They can function as e-readers as well but can also be used to surf the web, check and write e-mails, play music files, watch videos and so on.

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‘smartphones’ are, in essence, small tablet computers with the added component of being a phone.

4.2. Publishing in the Digital Age

4.2.1. The Early E-Book-Market

In his Evolution of the Book, Frederick Kilgour claimed in 1998 that the electronic book will play a vital role from the year 2000 onwards. This implies, according to his theory, that the e-book will fulfil societal needs that had not been covered by the printed book or periodicals.777 He comes up with six specifications necessary for the e-book and e-readers to be adopted: he stresses the importance of the legibility of the text, the dimensions and quality of the screen, the haptic comfort (“it should be possible to hold, manipulate, and read with one hand”), low cost of the reading device and constant access to millions of texts.778 It has to be acknowledged that twenty years later, the demands by readers, publishers and booksellers are not too far away from Kilgour’s assessment.

Early noteworthy developments towards publishing in a digital format happened in the year 2000, coincidentally the same year Frederick Kilgour puts the electronic book in his illustration about “punctuations of equilibria.” Stephen King, bestselling author known for horror stories like Pet Sematary or Carrie, decided to experiment with a new form of publishing and distributing his stories: instead of having a short novella published in a printed format, he asked his publisher, Simon & Schuster, to publish it exclusively online. Amazon and Barnes and Nobles were commissioned to sell the PDF-file containing his latest novella, Riding the Bullet, a 67-“page” story about a hitchhiker who ends up being driven by a living dead man. The electronic file was priced USD 2.50 and it became a huge success: it was reported that within the first 24 hours, it was sold over 400,000 times.779 King was immensely satisfied, but he emphasized: “While I think that the Internet and various computer applications for stories have great ←198 | 199→promise, I don’t think anything will replace the printed word and the bound book.” ’780

Nevertheless, he decided to try another experiment in digital publishing that can be seen as a test of acceptance of the new technological possibilities in the year 2000. A few months after the success of Riding the Bullet, King worked on the chapters of an unfinished story called The Plant, which he had started writing in the early 1980s and found no proper ending in the fourth chapter. This time, King planned digital publishing without his publisher, Simon & Schuster, much to their chagrin. Instead, he uploaded the first chapter of The Plant to his website in various formats like PDF, ASCII, HTML and further e-book formats. Using the honour-system payment, King tried at the same time to assess his readers’ acceptance of digital publishing: he invited his readers to access his website and download the text for free. The readers could decide afterwards whether to pay the suggested price of one dollar or not. King had set up only one rule: at least 75 per cent of the downloads would have to be paid. Otherwise, he would stop writing The Plant and uploading chapters. Initially, his second online-experiment continued the success of Riding the Bullet: more than 150,000 people downloaded the first chapter, and, according to King, 76 per cent of the downloads were paid for.781 It looked like King was successfully freeing authors from their dependence from publishers and the printed book at the same time. However, the willingness of King’s readers to pay for his digital instalments dropped significantly to 50 per cent for the third part. Hoping that this would be only a temporary setback, King kept uploading the next two chapters anyway. But ultimately, after the fifth part, King declared on his website that the sixth part, being made available on December 2000, would be the last part of The Plant.782

The success of Riding the Bullet (and, to some extent, of the first chapters of The Plant) might be interpreted as a mere curiosity of King’s enormous fan base. It was, after all, a true novelty that an internationally successful and bestselling author offered texts, new material even, in a digital, and thus new format, only. In the long run, however, this did not encourage his readers to support this new way of textual distribution. It is a question of debate whether this was due to the ←199 | 200→digital format or due to the low content value of his instalments.783 King in no uncertain terms blamed his readers not being ready for the digital environment of books while King’s fan base criticized the mediocre quality, especially of The Plant. Apart from that, being digital had several effects on the actual reading experience: readers were limited to reading the text on the computer screen or on early e-readers which offered poor quality as they used rather inadequate LCD-displays. An alternative was to print out the text and read it on paper. The digital book revolution, at any rate, had to be postponed, even if economists like William A. Fischer insinuated in 2002 that “for traditional publishers the relief of a happy ending may well be short-lived.”784

According to the charts of the US sales revenue of all books delivered electronically over the internet or to hand-held reading devices, one can point out the stagnation of the importance of e-books for the publishing industry between 2002 and 2005. However, there are also two points of increase: the first, if quite moderate, beginning in late 2005, and the second, much more significant, beginning in late 2007. Both increases indicate a steady growth.785 These surges in e-book sales are probably in connection to the introduction of Sony’s e-reader and Amazon’s Kindle (in the US) in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In any case, Thompson’s chart for the US market hints at an e-book breakthrough signifying a growing acceptance of the new format.

A potential supersession of the material book by the digital book is oftentimes equated with the death of traditional publishing. John Thompson comments on this in the preface of his monograph Merchants of Culture as follows:

But on the rare occasions that the publishing industry itself comes under public scrutiny, more often than not it is because another journalist is eager to announce that, with the coming of the digital age, the publishing industry as we know it is doomed. Few industries have had their death foretold more frequently than the book industry, and yet somehow, miraculously, it seems to have survived them all – at least till now.786

In other words, the book publishing industry (and the book culture as we know it) is supposed to be under attack by the so-called digital revolution. Ten years after King’s first attempt at using the digital medium, the printed book was supposedly facing the competition of its digital surrogate again. This time, ←200 | 201→however, the impetus for a new age in the publishing industry has not been an established and widely successful author, but a hugely successful and popular producer of entertainment gadgets, namely Apple. The launching of the iPad in March 2010 was eagerly awaited by technophiles and e-book proponents alike. Previous reading devices primarily facilitated access to digital texts. As a multifunctional tablet, the iPad offered all the possibilities of multimedia, and a steep rise in embracing digital products, also in the publishing industry, was expected.787 Celebrated by the media and consumers alike, this tablet computer truly seemed to offer all that technophile consumers wished for. Even though it was quite expensive (about EUR 500–800, depending on the configuration of the equipment), it offered a computer with an impressive colour touchscreen. The usability was intuitive and is even understood by people who had never before worked with touchscreen technology. Compared to dedicated e-readers that just display texts and images in black and white, the iPad let consumers watch videos or even movies, play games, surf the world wide web, receive and write emails, just in a portable format. The incentive to purchase this device was much higher since it basically offered a portable multimedia computer. The fact that Apple was known to be a very sophisticated company with dyed-in-the-wool followers added to the tremendous success of the iPad. In June 2011, a little more than a year after releasing the first iPad, Apple revealed that they had sold more than 25 million units.788 Like iTunes for music, Apple offers a digital bookshop with iBooks, trying to repeat their enormous success as a distributer of digital content. After a couple of months refusing to do so, Apple eventually offered an application making it possible to purchase and read Kindle texts, the format of its biggest competitor Amazon.789

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In order to gauge how the introduction of new reading devices changed the mood in the publishing industry, the following passages will first summarize the findings of the Bookseller’s Futurebook Digital Book Census from 2010, that is, before the iPad was introduced. This is followed by elaborations on advantages and disadvantages of digital publishing. Afterwards, the mood of the publishing industry is gauged with results from the Digital Census from 2013, two years after the iPad and the introduction of the Amazon Kindle on the European market.

Executed by the weekly magazine Bookseller, the census provided answers from more than 2,000 people about the future of the book.790 Most participants of this survey were associated with the book trade (authors, publishers, librarians and so on). But non-related groups like students and journalists took part as well. The scope of the survey is international, but most of the participants are from the UK, followed by participants from the USA and from the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, there is no information concerning the age of the respondents. Also, since the study was based on an online survey, one has to take into consideration that the respondents are primarily people used to the digital environment.

In general, the results of the survey showed that tendencies towards an acceptance of the digital book were palpable, albeit weakly. Taking all data into consideration, the survey came to the conclusion that the market for digital books was still small but was growing and publishers should be optimistic that investing in digital publishing will prove to be economically viable. This development was seen in the fields of production, distribution and reception. Asked about their opinion whether e-book sales will at one point overtake sales of printed books, more than 50 per cent of the respondents answered with yes, more than a third disagreed. Almost two thirds of those people were sure that this would happen before the year 2019. On the other hand, only two per cent believed that printed books will vanish completely.791 Both groups were wrong.

According to the 2010 survey, about 78 per cent have read a book or a journal in a digital format. This figure is even more important if one takes into consideration that in the previous survey from 2009 only 47.2 per cent said so. An even more relevant indicator for acceptance (and preference) is the willingness to pay for digital content. This figure also rose significantly from 18.2 to 46.9 per cent. While, on the one hand, this clearly states that more people were ready to pay for digital texts, on the other hand, this also signifies that still more than half the people that do embrace digital reading in general were actually not willing to ←202 | 203→pay for the content.792 However, both publishers (57.3 per cent) and booksellers (35.7 per cent) indicated that customers were not yet ready to use and read e-books.793 Other hindrances to selling more e-books mentioned included technology, accessibility, availability and price, DRM, retailer resistance, poor marketing and quality. But despite this plethora of hindrances, publishers were more willing to publish in digital formats as well. According to the 2010 census, more than four in five publishers were willing to do so. This is not surprising, since according to the figures, digital publishing is a growing market, albeit a small one: nearly half of the publishers put their digital sales at about one to three per cent of their total sales. However, asked about their prediction for the year 2020, 35.3 per cent believed that digital sales will account for 21–50 per cent of all the sales, 27.9 per cent even predict more than 50 per cent.794 In conclusion, despite all the hindrances and relatively insignificant amount of digital sales in 2010, booksellers and publishers alike had no doubts in 2010 about the growing acceptance of the electronic book.

4.2.2. Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Content

Book publishing is not the first industry which encountered difficulties with digitizing their analogue content. Beginning in the 1990s, a similar situation occurred in the industry of recorded music entertainment. It is helpful to look at this development and its parallels to the publishing industry.

From its very beginning in the late nineteenth century to the first decade of the twenty-first century, the carrier of music information underwent several changes. The most important transitional stages were the phonograph, 78 rpm records, the microgroove LP, the stereo LP, the compact disc (CD) and the compressed MP3-file. Eric Rothenbuhler has pointed out in his essay “The Compact Disc and Its Culture” (2012)795 that up to the development of the CD, every subsequent medium was mainly about the enhancement of the sound quality. The introduction of the MP3-format, however, saw a discernible reduction of sound quality. Further disadvantages of the digital file are apparent since the MP3 file has no materiality and therefore cannot be handled or looked at. In other words, ←203 | 204→the MP3 resulted in a decline of symbolic value (“no presence,” “cannot be looked at”) as well as content value concerning the sound quality. Nonetheless, it has superseded the CD as the main format chosen by customers of music. Rothenbuhler concludes that the CD is the reason for this development: “The paradox of the CD is that its success led to its decline.”796 It did not only offer the best sound quality for recorded music to date, it was also, in contrast to LPs, highly portable and eventually playable in cars and transportable players. The freedom of listening to music anywhere was esteemed higher than the possible high sound quality. According to the market analysis, convenience had superseded the value of sound quality. For the majority of the market, listening to music became less and less a leisure activity which needed or encouraged much attention to (sonic) detail. Rather, listening to music developed more and more to an activity en passant. This trend was extended by the MP3 file. Though the compression results in a poorer sound quality, this loss is only perceivable with (usually expensive) high fidelity (hifi) equipment and by paying closer attention to the music. Since hifi amplifiers and loudspeakers are not designed to be portable (as opposed to MP3 players), the loss of sound quality could therefore be neglected.797 Alternative digital formats with lossless compression exist but are rarely applied to the mass music market. However, the music industry and several record companies invested in high resolution mediums that offered even higher sound quality than the CD and further offered surround sound mixes like the Digital Versatile Disc-Audio (DVD-A) or the Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD). Later on, similar products were offered on BluRay discs, as they offered much more storage than average DVDs. This counter-reaction, however, is, to this day, a niche product with an uncertain future.

Ironically, the CD is, in recent years, not only losing to the MP3 format, but also to its predecessor, the stereo vinyl record. Audiophiles invest in hifi equipment which has led to a continued production of new turntables and the respective equipment. This does, however, not change the fact that “low price, small size, portability and convenience have largely displaced quality, fidelity, beauty or truth as primary terms of evaluation in the world of consumer audio playback media and devices.”798 In a rather ironic twist of technological development, the ←204 | 205→CD, once the shiny symbol of digital possibilities, nowadays seems to represent a medium which offers neither enough symbolic value, nor enough convenience for music entertainment. For the occasional music experience, streaming services like Spotify or Prime Music have largely displaced ownership of CDs.

A similar development can be witnessed in the motion picture industry. Despite the increasing improvements of audio-visual quality of movies with high storage mediums like the Blu-Ray disc and HD television sets, the success of streaming services like Netflix stresses that audio-visual content (like movies or TV series) needs to be convenient, mobile, direct and fast. Possible limitations in picture and (especially) sound quality seem negligible.799 Convenience supersedes quality and seems to establish itself as a new value in itself.

Music, movies and texts are of course different mediums and a comparison, though tempting, needs to be undertaken cautiously. Recorded music has always been a tertiary medium. No matter in which format, it is listened to via some form of loudspeaker. In a physical book, as a secondary medium, the content is inseparable from its carrier. With digitization, content can change its carrier and thereby acquire a different look based on size and quality of the screen. This in turn affects the actual reading experience. Also, listening to music is usually passive and does not necessarily require much attention if music is considered to be merely background noise and listening to it merely a secondary activity. Reading always needs at least minimal attention. The success of the MP3 format for music has demonstrated that an economically sufficient number of customers shifted their values for music consumption. Whereas sound quality might be the most obvious value for recorded music, it is convenience on many levels that became prevalent.

The digital possibilities for texts offer similar advantages, but in theory, they also offer further possibilities of which the printed text is not capable. Thompson elaborated on these opportunities. His Merchants of Culture was heavily discussed after its publication. Though most reviews were rather favourable, Claire Squires’s review lists several flaws, among others that Thompson is not using a sound methodology.800 Thompson answered with an extensive reply:

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As a social scientist, I take the view that if we wish to understand these worlds we have to immerse ourselves in them. It is not enough to sit back and reflect abstractly on what might or might not be happening in these worlds - armchair speculation is undoubtedly much easier, but it tells us very little about what is actually going on in the world we wish to understand.801

Later on, Thompson directly refers to Squires:

Although she is not explicit about this, Squires’s discomfort may stem from the fact that her background is in literary studies and she appears to have little sympathy for, and little understanding of, the kinds of research methods commonly used in the social sciences.802

The most helpful criticism about Thompson’s monograph stems from Charles Levine, who pointed out that Thompson’s chapter about the digital revolution already looked dated on the day of publication.803 Thompson agrees and justifies this with the fact that “one great risk that any researcher faces when they are working on a contemporary industry is that they are shooting a moving target.”804 Even though his data is not up to date, he still claims that he would not change his main argument which basically states that the digital revolution is still a process with no clear outcome.

He lists nine aspects possible within the digital environment that might ‘add value’ to their content: ease of access, updatability, scale, searchability, portability, intertextuality, affordability, flexibility and multimedia.805 Unfortunately, Thompson does not offer a definition of ‘added value,’ nor does he state what is added to what and who gains from such an added value. However, one can assume from his reasoning that he argues from the perspective of the customer and therefore lists possible reasons for their further acceptance of digital publications.

The term ‘added value’ derives from economic sciences rather than from the humanities. In essence, the term implies that within the production chain of a product, each step adds something, an ‘added value,’ to the product that makes the commodity more attractive for the customer (see chapter 1). The ‘added ←206 | 207→value’ for the customer, then, is an increase in desire for the product. Whether this ‘added value’ is merely perceived by the customer or really adds to the quality of the product in measurable terms (for example longer life, efficiency and so on) is less relevant than the fact that it increases the probability that the producer will sell more units of his product or earn more with a higher price. Thompson’s idea of ‘added values’ has the specific difference that it relates to advantages for publications in a digital format compared to print format.

Thompson’s elaborations discussed above certainly need to be regarded carefully. Adriaan van der Weel points out possible problems when talking about categories like advantages and disadvantages:

Speaking in terms of advantages and disadvantages always carries the danger of limiting one’s perspective, since they are inevitably advantages and disadvantages compared to a standard, which often remains implicit. Moreover, such a standard is usually not fixed, because humans are inclined to view advantages and disadvantages mainly in the light of their present circumstances. Also advantages often have an unpleasant and not very predictable tendency to turn into disadvantages in the longer term. (The opposite happens as well, but unfortunately that seems less often the case.)806

With Thompson’s approach to label certain possibilities of digital texts as ‘added values,’ he clearly means this as an advantage in comparison to print. The perspective, however, seems a bit vague. Van der Weel, however, also decides to name advantages and disadvantages for the current situation and states that he will do so as openly as possible from his perspective as a homo typographicus, that is from a person who grew up “relying on typographical ‘markup’ as one of the chief methods to convey structure and meaning.”807 These views, consequently, have to be seen from this perspective. Younger generations might already have a different one.

Support of Acceptance

The following list of ‘added values’ is suggested by John Thompson in his Merchants of Culture.808 These abilities of digital publishing show the possible advantages of e-books in general (but depending on the format). The relevance of these aspects is further dependent on the publishing category, as will be discussed below.

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Ease of access refers to the almost unlimited and simple availability of e-books, access to internet provided. It is neither necessary to approach an institution like a library or a bookstore, nor is access limited to opening hours. With digital content, the reader has, at least in theory, access to texts all the time.

Updatability stresses the option to change the content of a work without the need to produce the whole print run again. These opportunities might be as profane as correcting spelling mistakes or formatting errors in novels to more vital changes such as updating encyclopaedic entries in reference works. One vital drawback, especially for scholars is the problem of unstable texts. Quoting texts that can, in theory, change at any time, is a problem within the academic world.

Scale emphasizes the amount of content the reader has access to. In fact, there are so many works available that no individual could store it in a physical collection. The scale of available e-books can never be matched by a physical library. The almost limitless availability of content, however, also bears a noteworthy disadvantage. Readers in the digital environment must orientate themselves in the ever-growing scale of content.809 Nowadays, as internet users are already used to basically limitless scale, it seems less impressive. It is worth reminding though that access to content had never been that easy and copious, either due to restricted access or limited amount of content in general.

Searchability offers the reader the ability to scan the texts for words, names, phrases or illustrations. This does not, however, make table of contents, indices and bibliographies obsolete. A good index, for example, offers the editor’s assessment of what terms are important for the reader and further considers synonyms and related concepts of the main term.810 A simple text search cannot replace this function. However, the option to scan a text for a specific term within seconds can be a very efficient tool. It certainly gets more efficient the larger the scale and most probably will even improve with the development of machine learning algorithms.

Portability stresses the small dimensions of e-readers and the huge amount of texts that can be stored on a device. The widespread production of the paperback beginning in the early 20th century was very appealing because the format was more portable, but it is nothing compared to the amount of content an e-reader can store. Portability is connected to ‘scale’: more e-books on an e-reader will not affect the portability, but rather prove the added value.

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Flexibility addresses the ability of e-texts to adjust to different screen properties. It also refers to the possibility to change the size as well as the style of the fount. In 2015, Amazon has offered a fount called “Bookerly” that is allegedly superior for e-readers, increases the speed of reading and is causing less eyestrain.811 Flexibility is a feature that does not apply to PDF-e-books, since the page design is locked in this format.

Affordability takes into account that, in general, digital versions of publications are usually cheaper than the printed editions. This, however, depends on the country. The US, for example, offers much bigger price gaps for digital content than Germany. The German novel Stern 111, winner of the “Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse 2020,” for example, was EUR 24,- in hardcover and EUR 20,99 as a Kindle e-book a few weeks after its publication.

Intertextuality refers to the possibility to switch back and forth between texts, mainly with the use of hyperlinks. Rather than using further (physical) books to look up definitions or references, a click on a hyperlink will offer access to the content in question. Some e-readers offer services like dictionaries which will offer concise definitions of words, if the user wishes to do so.

Multimedia, finally, is probably the most obvious new feature of digital publications. Printed books may offer illustrations, but digital books, depending on the format, can offer videos and sound files as well. Again, this feature would only partially work for PDF e-books, even though colour illustrations are relatively expensive to produce in printed books. For PDF-only publications, these extra costs do not exist.

It can be concluded that most ‘added values’ potentially offer more convenience. Further, the possibility to add content value to publications due to digitization can hardly be denied. Still, digital publishing is not as important as predicted by the majority of the industry in the 2010 census summarized above. One reason for the slow acceptance and, indeed, preference of e-books and their advantages by readers is that ‘added values’ seem to lie in the eye of the beholder. A closer look at recent developments in publishing reveals that different publishing fields have reacted differently to the digital revolution. Scholarly journal publishing, for instance, is already preferring digital publishing for various reasons. This market is mainly based on institutions and not ←209 | 210→individuals. Subscriptions to print journals can easily be enhanced with access to digital versions. Also, the use of journal content seems rather digital-friendly: for example, most articles are not longer than 20 to 30 pages and can therefore either be read on a screen or can be printed out. Printouts of digital content obviously lose their other potential ‘added values’ like searchability or portability. In that case, mainly ‘ease of access’ and ‘scale’ would be the most striking feature. In a scholarly environment, a user with access to the institution’s database might have a huge scale to choose from and has instant access to the latest articles. Scholarly articles are usually offered as PDF-documents mimicking the physical counterpart and thereby making use of the page structure for referencing. Other formats that adapt to screen size and specific wishes from the user make traditional referencing tricky and would decrease its usability for academic use.812 According to Thompson’s ‘added values’ then, ease of access, scale, and searchability are the most important issues in that publishing field. Affordability can be neglected in this argument since both the printed and the digital versions would be provided by an institution. In other words, the context of acceptance for this particular publishing category was ideal.

An even more obvious genre which gains from these added values is encyclopaedic reference works. Here, the impetus was already felt in the early 1990s, when electronic works like Microsoft’s Encarta were published. These reference works were specifically programmed for a digital environment and not just transferred from print to screen. Consequently, it made use of digital opportunities, especially multimedia. Sales for multivolume reference works like Encyclopaedia Britannica dropped significantly due to the enormous success of the digital competition.813 The reason for this is that reference works are used differently as they primarily perform different functions. Users are predominantly interested in individual entries or even in parts of entries. The ample use of videos, illustrations and sound files further enhance the qualities (and desirability) of digital reference works. Basically, the more information a reference work offers, the more value it has for the user. In the printed format, more information means more pages, possibly more volumes and hence not only a decline in usability but also an increase in price because of additional production costs. In a digital environment, however, usability is not negatively affected by scale. More importantly, the need to constantly update entries in reference works is warranted ←210 | 211→with digital texts, and multimedia applications also enhance content and therefore the overall quality. Therefore, reference works might gain from all ‘added values’ of digital publishing, which might explain the immediate acceptance of CD-ROM editions by users in the 90s. The digital environment almost seems like a natural habitat for reference works. Cases in point are, for instance, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Both reference works use the digital environment to offer functions that the printed format could not offer as efficiently. These reference works become full-fledged databases in their digitized versions.

In contrast, longer linear texts that are supposed to be read from cover to cover, like novels or academic monographs, are much less amenable to these potential ‘added values.’ And because of the lesser felt impact of the advantages, the disadvantages of digital publishing are felt more strongly.

Hindrances of Acceptance


Unauthorized reproduction of texts has been an element in the world of publishing for centuries. However, with digital texts, the ability to illegally distribute copyrighted works is raised to a level never known before. Theoretically, a text protected by copyright could be sent to a large number of people simultaneously or could be uploaded to a server for every person with an internet connection to be downloaded. Publishers are aware of these possibilities as they endanger their revenue. They frequently refer to the devastating effects the music industry witnessed in the 1990s, especially with peer-to-peer file sharing services like Napster.814 As the enormous popularity of Napster and similar services have proven: if there is a way to get a digital file for free, even if it is illegal, and the probability to get caught is (allegedly) quite low, then the incentive to spend money on that content seems to be low as well. A famous advertisement against piracy proclaims that “You wouldn’t download a car!” The idea behind this ad is to create awareness that a digital file may be an abstract commodity encoded in zeros and ones but is still a commodity that has been created by people who depend on monetary transaction just like with any other commodity, physical or ←211 | 212→not. But since it is not a physical product, it somehow makes it feel less of a crime to download a file without paying for it.

Publishers argue that their intellectual property has to be protected in some way, since it is their commodity. According to the Futurebook Census 2010, more than 50 per cent of the publishers are aware of instances where their digital content is multiplied and distributed illegally. The reactions, however, seem to differ. Points of view range from indifference because one cannot stop this (just as one cannot stop people from lending and borrowing books) to using this as an incentive to reach a sensible price policy to make texts convenient to buy. Some comments are even downright optimistic and praise the positive effects. It is almost seen as effective and cheap marketing since their works are being spread, which creates awareness of the product, the author or the publishing house. However, the majority of publishers had strategies in place to deal with this issue.815 The most common way to deal with digital piracy is the application of Digital Rights Management, a method which aims at controlling access to proprietary content (in short: DRM). Access to files with DRM is restricted, mainly to a limited amount of reading devices and/or user-accounts. Worst case scenario: an e-book can only be accessed on one reading device. The application of DRM is an attempt by publishers to secure the legal distribution of digital content and restricting unauthorized copies. Such decisions are, at the same time, also inhibiting acceptance of e-books as it signals that the “copyright holder wants to keep their content from the same people they are giving it to.”816 DRM essentially limits the functions of the book as a social object: it is impossible to lend e-books to other people. Therefore, this measure made the purchase of e-books less desirable. Ironically, publishers are very much aware of this. Approximately 20 per cent of publishers and booksellers believe that DRM is putting customers off from purchasing more e-books.817 In fact, DRM is seen by many readers as a limitation of their rights as customers which sometimes leads to drastic counter-reactions: tech-savvy DRM opponents seek ways to circumvent DRM and publish the ‘liberated’ works online for free. The idea behind this is less to hurt sales but rather as a sign to publishers to stop mistrusting their customers.

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Price Policy

The second major problem inhibiting sales of digital texts is price policy. How much can a publisher ask for an electronic version of a text? How much is a consumer willing to pay? Are digital texts worth paying as much for as the physical product? These questions are the crucial questions for digital publishing as they address the complex interrelations of the book value categories: how much economic value can publishers appoint to content-only products so that customers are still willing to pay for a product, especially when they also have the option to choose a physical book that potentially may offer more symbolic value precisely because of its materiality? Further, book users argue that publishers save a lot of money with e-books since no paper, printing, binding, delivery or storage is needed. Still, expenses for the mass-production of a printed book play a marginal role.818 But authors still have to write the books, the text still has to be set or programmed by professionals, editors are still revising and restructuring the text to enhance it and, last but not least, the publisher, taking the biggest financial risk of all, still has to perform his duties in marketing. Even if consumers are confronted with these reasons, and even if the digital environment ‘adds value’ to the content, readers are still adamant that the digital text should cost less. From this perspective, consumers seem to perceive the digital version of a text as less valuable in economic terms since it offers less. They are not willing to pay the equal amount of money for the digital version. There are more devaluing consequences for the customer: legally, an e-book is, strictly speaking, not bought since there is no transfer of ownership. Instead, a licence is purchased which only allows the reading of the digital text. This in turn renders the option of reselling e-books impossible. Consequently, e-books have no economic value for the customers whatsoever. Because of the reduced amount of symbolic and economic value of e-books for the customer, the perceived value of the physical book is esteemed higher. According to the Futurebook Census 2010, more than 20 per cent of booksellers and publishers believe that e-book prices were still too high to guarantee a higher acceptance of e-books.819 However, publishers did not have a lot of leeway in their price policy.

A sales strategy of Amazon made publishers aware of the risk of too low prices for e-books: in late 2007, Amazon announced that it would offer all New York Times bestsellers, as well as new releases, for only USD 9.99 in the Kindle format. Publishers were surprised since this price had never been talked about or agreed ←213 | 214→upon. Amazon had not been required to agree on a price for which the e-books were to be sold (only the amount to be paid to the publisher had been agreed upon beforehand). In fact, Amazon lost money with every e-book sold in that sales strategy. Depending on the novel, Amazon lost up to eight dollars per unit.820 However, Amazon incentivized the purchase of their reading device for readers interested in the New York Times bestsellers. According to this strategy, the purchase of a Kindle would be viable already after a few discounted e-books. More importantly for Amazon, they could build their customer base and bind them to their Kindle-system. Provided that Amazon would take care of a good selection of texts and provided that the hardware would not disappoint, chances were good that customers would not change to competitors with e-book platforms of their own.

As sensible as this strategy might seem for Amazon, it was dangerous for publishers. On the one hand, however, they got paid the agreed upon price and the distributer was paying the difference. On the other hand, consumers may quickly adapt to the new price structures. If Amazon kept up its USD 9.99 policy for too long, people might perceive new novels to be worth only ten dollars. This, according to publishers, would be catastrophic to the whole industry.821


The video and audio entertainment industry, as well as their customers, are very familiar with so-called “format wars.” The competition between Betamax and VHS in the late 1970s and early 1980s, or the more recent one for high definition films between Blu-Ray disc and HD-DVD around the year 2008, should create awareness for publishers of digital content. Consumers can be undecided and hesitate to accept a new medium in general. When several formats are available that offer basically the same service, it is not likely that all formats will continue to coexist. Investing in the new technology might turn out to be a dead end after a few years. For example, people who had bought an HD-DVD-player in 2006 witnessed the defeat of their format to the Blu-Ray system two years later. As a consequence, movies in high definition were no longer produced for HD-DVD players. The entertainment device which had been purchased as the latest technology ready for the future became useless in just a couple of years. A similar situation existed for years for e-books. Readers that were willing to try an e-reader had to choose from a panoply of formats: Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle, Acer Lumiread, Aluratek, Oyo, ←214 | 215→the iRex, nook, Trekstor and many more. Their content was not always interchangeable across different devices. If a customer has bought the rights to read a text on e-reader A, they might not be able to read it when they later decide to buy e-reader B. The incompatibility between systems is still palpable today, if not as confusing as in the booming years for e-readers around 2005. The situation gets more complex when the producers of the e-readers are also responsible for e-book-distribution. Since the competition for the e-book-market was fierce, customers suffered from rigid strategies of their e-reader producers. This was felt especially in the first days of the iPad. It took several months until Apple finally agreed to make it possible to read Kindle-books, offered and sold by and via Amazon, on Apple iPads. Back then, Apple still tried to establish their e-book store “iBooks,” hoping to mimic their huge success with iTunes for digital music distribution.

Reading Devices

Digitization within the publishing industry means a separation from content and its material carrier. In late 2012, the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), a rich-in-tradition daily newspaper, launched an advertisement series to promote their digital counterpart to the printed product. The main claim of the campaign reads “NZZ-Leser brauchen kein Papier,” emphasizing that their service is about content and not about the material of the medium. The ad shows a supposed reader (depending on the version of the ad, a man in his 50s, a man in his 30s, and a woman in her 20s) from the point of view of a reading device with touchscreen technology. The depicted reader is pointing towards the camera. The first impression is that the individuals are pointing at the observer and thus reminding observers of the 1917 “I want you for U.S. Army” campaign by ‘Uncle Sam.’ However, on closer inspection one notices that the fingertip is touching an invisible barrier. They are choosing something on a touchscreen. The observers of this ad find themselves within the reading device and witness this reading situation. The background of the ad, despite being out of focus and blurry, reveals further information. The three individuals reading on a smartphone or tablet computer are currently located at a train station, probably waiting for a train. An interview with Peter Hogenkamp, editor-in-chief for the digital department of the NZZ, explains that the Zürich main station was chosen as a location. A train station implies mobility, an element which is oftentimes connected with modern reading devices and praised as an important advantage.823 If one ignores the ←215 | 216→ ←216 | 217→obvious suggestion that the people portrayed in the ads are reading the advertised newspaper, it can also be assumed that they may just pass the time with reading a novel, checking their mails or even booking connecting trains. It is not clearly stated that the depicted readers are reading the advertised NZZ itself. This can be seen as an ironic take at the famous German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) ad campaign with the claim “Dahinter steckt immer ein kluger Kopf”: In these ads, a newspaper reading situation is shown with the newspaper fully unfolded partially obstructing the view of the reader. Though the readers cannot be seen, the ad always reveals the name of the reader in small letters. Usually, the readers are well-known people connected to high cultural capital like politicians, authors or celebrities. In terms of the NZZ ad campaign, it is not necessary to see what the readers are reading. Rather than showing people reading the advertised product, it suggests that these readers are able to use modern reading devices and are aware of their advantages. They have completely accepted the new medium and use it in everyday situations. Consequently, these people signify the reader of the future.

For the newspaper industry, those readers also signified a new (and important) customer group: readers who are not only willing to pay for news on paper, but also in a digital format. In December 2012, the German Financial Times Deutschland went out of business. The well-established Frankfurter Rundschau also declared bankruptcy (but was eventually saved by the publisher of the FAZ in 2013). One of the reasons for those papers’ financial problems was (allegedly) the lack of focus on the digital environment. The NZZ ad campaign tries to convince their readers that reading on digital devices can actually have advantages: speedy ease of access as well as portability. A paper-based newspaper cannot easily be held in one hand. The finger touching the invisible barrier also hints at further functions of touchscreen technology: touch on a picture in a digital article and the picture is full scale, a video might be played, a hyperlink may be activated opening a new window with further information about the chosen topic, changing fount sizes and so on.

With this interpretation in mind, it might be concluded that the ad not only suggests, as the title implies, that paper is not necessary. It really implies that paper is holding back all those useful possibilities that finally arrived due to technological advancements. (After all, touching a picture in a printed newspaper will lead to nothing.) Inadvertently, the ad addresses the most crucial element of the concurrent existence of print and digital publishing. The acceptance of reading on a screen seems wanting, albeit growing. Therefore, it stresses that paper is not a necessity to enjoy newspapers, but it really limits the possibilities of useful reading. Markus Spillmann, editor-in-chief of the NZZ, however, phrases it more diplomatically, stressing the continued relevance of print:

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Die gedruckte Zeitung wird es auch weiterhin geben, wie lange, wissen wir alle nicht. Wir wollen mit dem Werbeslogan betonen, dass es die Qualität, die wir heute vor allem noch in Print abbilden, künftig verstärkt auf allen digitalen Vertriebsformen geben wird. Es ist keine Kampagne gegen Print, sondern eine umgedreht positiv besetzte Kampagne für die Qualität im digitalen Raum der NZZ.824

Granted, publishing newspapers is very different from publishing books. They satisfy different needs and perform different functions. Nevertheless, the insinuated advantages in this ad campaign may also be applied to the book. In the nineteenth century, the newspaper industry had already been the impetus for technological advantages of which some were eventually adopted by the book industry. It is not altogether impossible that a similar trend might appear in the digital age: newspaper and magazine publishing might need to push technological (and software) possibilities. The NZZ advertisement demonstrates that the reading device seems to be a very important factor in digital publishing. During the time of the ads in the year 2012, they were, at the same time, one of the most problematic factors that inhibited a successful breakthrough for digital publishing. In fact, around a third of publishers and booksellers believed that it was the technology behind e-books that put readers off.825 Early reading devices were quite expensive: readers like the I-Rex were about EUR 600,- in 2006. A year later, Amazon launched its Kindle onto the US market for USD 399,- which was quite an investment for a gadget that only lets the customers read texts. Around 2013, similar readers cost around EUR 150,- which is, albeit much cheaper, still around the price of 15 paperback novels.

Apart from the high price, screens were relatively small. Early devices even suffered from an inadequate resolution. Electronic paper (or e-ink)826 technology was designed and enhanced to mimic the effect of print on paper, but it could not achieve the contrast of pure black on pure white, which is still one of the best ways to read.827 Electronic paper is usually offered on dedicated e-readers (the iLiad reader was one of the earliest mass-produced readers with e-ink). This technology, however, is incompatible with tablet computers. Further, those displays are shiny and reflect external sources of light. Ironically, the reading experience with a tablet under the sun can be as annoying as reading a printed ←218 | 219→book in the dark. It must seem almost ridiculous for aficionados of the printed book that a new technology like electronic paper needed to offer the added value of reading texts in sunlight. Finally, reading devices were quite bulky and heavy, some even heavier than a hardcover book. It was not the same to turn the page like in a codex book. Skipping several pages was also tricky.828

What also possibly put readers off, especially those new to IT equipment, were the growing options of equipment (Wi-Fi, 3G, on-device storage, USB-port and so on). Even the Kindle is offered in various sizes, display qualities and additional equipment. Compared to the printed book, for which readers had maybe the choice between hardback and paperback, sometimes cheaper mass-market paperbacks or film tie-ins. But no matter the choice, the text was always accessible. There was no need to worry about incompatibility with something else.

All in all, e-readers were quite expensive for a gadget that only displays text and images. The screens were rather small and inadequate, and the haptic advantages were still with the codex book. Thompson’s findings have emphasized that hardware is a crucial factor for digital publishing. The rise in e-book sales in late 2006 and 2007 are certainly in connection to the introduction of Sony’s e-reader and Amazon’s Kindle in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

The NZZ ad campaign emphasizes that the shift to digital texts implies many more changes compared to the Gutenberg and industrial age. It implies a complete change in the form of the medium. The most basic unit of the physical book is the page, and this idea has structured textual transmission for almost 2000 years. With digital texts, pages are not required. Nevertheless, they oftentimes offer conceptions of page-like entities, something which is oftentimes criticized:

It might be argued that what we are seeing in much contemporary web design is a failure of imagination, a case of what sometimes is called ‘the horseless carriage phenomenon’ – the tendency to conceive of a new technology in terms of the old, and therefore to reproduce the features of the old technology even when these features are no longer functional.829

This view, however, implies that the new technology can potentially offer some sort of improvement for textual presentation compared to former technologies. It also ignores the possibility that the unit of the page, which has developed over ←219 | 220→centuries, might not need improvement for textual information. Consequently, Stoicheff and Taylor conclude that there are “good reasons for doing things the same old way and that it will be exceedingly difficult to do things differently.”830 The latter argument clearly touches upon the aspect of acceptance of the new technology: readers have been accustomed to this format for two millennia and the acceptance of a new format would be hard to establish. Bonnie Mak argues that “we are drawing upon rich traditions in the design of our scripts and typeface, the layout of text, image, space, and the paratextual devices of title-pages, headings, tables, and indices.”831 This path dependence does not need to hinder developments in the digital age. It needs to be assessed, however, which publishing categories profit from imitating such features, and which profit from different structuring.

4.3. Acceptance of the Digital Book

In 2013, the iPad had been established as a mass-market tablet computer, along with competing products, for example Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. Likewise, Amazon’s Kindle was firmly established. Still, e-books had not superseded the printed book as a primary means to entertain, educate or inform readers. In 2011, Dong-Hee Shin assessed the acceptance of e-books and e-readers. His elaborate research, which combines the Uses and Gratifications Theory, the Expectation Confirmation Theory as well as the Diffusion Theory, confirms the sentiments about the rather slow acceptance of e-books around this time: emotional factors as well as usability have inhibiting influences on the continuance intention:

One finding that attracts attention is that consumers like e-books that feel like paper books, but still have functional advantages of advanced digital devices. From this perspective, the study was successful in its attempt to integrate emotional (affective) and cognitive factors.832

The study further revealed that content and service quality were highly expected then and played a vital role in the future of digital publishing:

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This study confirms the importance of usability and further clarifies that usability can be enhanced by perceived service and content quality. These findings raise a need for e-books to provide quality content as well as excellence of service to customers. As Kang et al. (2009) argue, the perception of e-book quality by customers is a major factor in achieving market breakthrough. […] It has been argued that the most significant weakness of e-books is the lack of content. As people increasingly turn to the web for the sort of content they used to get from books, their expectations for that content will change. Those changing expectations will undoubtedly have an impact on the development of future e-readers, not to mention future e-books. In this study, the users’ perception of quality shows a much stronger impact on intention than previous studies on IT use have indicated.833

The findings of Shin’s research, even though they seem outdated in 2020 (especially the argument of ‘lack of content’), were largely confirmed by the results of the 2013 Futurebook Digital Book Census (by then renamed as Digital Census 2013).834 A comparison with the 2010 results shows a continuity of the previous ←221 | 222→trends. However, several interesting shifts in perception become apparent.835 The responses were collected in late 2012 and the respondents are broken down as 37.1 per cent publishers, 10.2 per cent librarians, 9.8 per cent published authors, 9.6 per cent booksellers/retailers, and 5.3 per cent self-published authors.836 The scope of the survey is again international in accordance with the previous surveys.837

90.4 per cent of the respondents have read a book or a journal in a digital format. This speaks for a steadily increasing acceptance of (or at least curiosity about) digital texts. However, as the analysis states: “Perhaps it should be more a surprise to find that one in ten (9.6 per cent) of our respondents has not yet read digitally.”838 An interesting development is the commonly used device to read digitally. Despite the enormous success of tablet computers, hailed as an all-rounder for everything digital, the dedicated e-reader jumped from 48.1 to 57.1 per cent. The PC expectedly lost six percentage points and is in second place with 45 per cent, followed by the tablet computer with 44.2 per cent. The smartphone, after rising from 31.5 per cent to 37.5 per cent, slightly dropped to 36.5 per cent.839 It can be assumed that Amazon’s aggressive (and successful) Kindle marketing is responsible for these results. However, the respondents also estimated that by 2015, tablets will prevail. Another estimation by respondents is that it is less about choosing one device but rather about flexibility and use across various platforms.840

Another topic touched upon by the survey was the question concerning how much digital content has been sold and in which format publishers chose to sell it. While digital sales were continuously growing in 2013 (the survey labels it ←222 | 223→“current digital sales soaring”), the choice of format became rather complex. Sales of PDF-files were dropping, whereas e-books, enhanced e-books and apps were rising, indicating a development away from digital texts completely mimicking the printed page.841 It is rather telling, though, that 18.8 per cent of publishers stated that they do not know their percentage of current sales in digital formats. It can only be guessed whether this is merely a reluctance to disclose such information or whether it signifies that digital publishing was not seen as relevant enough by publishers. This, however, remains speculation.

Publishers were also asked what, from their perspective, caused hindrances towards selling digital formats. They answered that their digital products were not easy to discover and that customers were not used to paying for digital content and hence demanded it for free (32.4 per cent and 31.8 per cent respectively). More generally, it was also stated that customers were not ready for digital formats (23.8 per cent). Interestingly, “piracy” (14.9 per cent), “technology” (13.6 per cent) and “DRM putting people off” (10.4 per cent), usually factors that have been constantly named when dealing with problems of digital content, were listed surprisingly low.842 After all, besides the limitation of usability, it also symbolizes that publishers distrust their customers. As one respondent from publishing put it in the Digital Census 2013: “DRM is worse than useless. It tells your customers that you don’t trust them. It restricts honest and non-technical users without stopping anyone with even a small amount of technical ability.”843

A final noteworthy finding concerning publishers is the number of growing start-ups like Unbound, ReadSocial, Ten Pages or Small Demons. Rather tellingly, only a few publishers had been aware of this trend.844 Such start-ups, among other things, organize crowdfunding of publications. The concept of crowdfunding basically reshapes the traditional value chain in publishing. As van der Weel illustrates in his value chain as value network for crowdfunding: consumers, at least partially, take over the primary functions of publishers with marketing, funding and publicity.

It remains to be seen whether crowdfunding will become an important opponent to traditional publishing, or whether it will continue to support niche products. In the music business, however, crowdfunding has already witnessed ←223 | 224→several success stories. British progressive rock band Marillion, for example, fell out of favour with their record company because the band refused to focus on writing radio friendly music. Lacking the financial support of a big record company, the band was unable to tour to promote their music. Initiated by American fans, online crowdfunding eventually made it possible for the band to tour in the US in 1997.846 Astonished by this concept, the band asked their fan base if they were interested in pre-ordering their next album before it was even written. Subsequently, more than 12,000 fans pre-ordered and thus funded the recording of the album Marbles, which was eventually released in 2001.847 Similar situations also happened in the movie industry and could still become a bigger force within the publishing industry.

←224 | 225→

All developments in the digital publishing sector, especially since 2013, point to an increasing influence of global tech companies. This is already hinted at within the Digital Census 2013 survey, which also shed light on the problematic situation of selling digital content. Despite the fact that more and more booksellers offered digital books, their sales of digital content were only growing slowly, with the exception of Amazon. This was a general trend in the business of digital publishing: “As the digital revolution shakes down, who stands to gain and who will miss out? Our survey makes it abundantly clear: hi-tech content intermediaries are the winners and longstanding professions who built their empires on print are the losers.”848

The assessment of the respondents was clearly stating that Amazon (98.7 per cent), Apple (92.3 per cent), hardware and device companies (89.3 per cent) and Google (87.7 per cent) were the winners at the end of 2012, whereas traditional booksellers were considered to be the losers with 95.8 per cent of the respondents thinking so.

Amazon’s Kindle strategy was undoubtedly a success. When the Kindle store opened in 2007 (for the US market), it offered merely 90,000 titles. Ten years later, it had risen to over five million different titles and its estimated share of UK e-book sales is around 90 per cent.849 At the same time, however, the predictions of an unstoppable rise of e-book dominance were taken back. In 2017, traditional publishers were estimating a levelling-off, or even contracting, of the market share for their digital publications. These statements were confirmed by a Nielsen survey called “Books and the Consumer.” According to the results, e-book sales dropped in 2016 to 88.9 million from 92.9 million in 2015 (these figures even include self-published titles not available in print format).850 This trend is further stressed with another statistical revelation: 2015 saw the first rise in physical book sales since 2007, the year Amazon released its Kindle.851 Based on that deceleration of digital publishing, publishers were more careful when asked by the Futurebook Census again at the end of 2017 which format they think will be dominant by the year 2025: 58 per cent agreed on print, with ←225 | 226→e-book as second place with only 30 per cent.852 This prediction is probably partially based on the finding that for 37 per cent of publishers the format with the biggest growth was the printed format, but the e-book was still strong with 35 per cent. Perhaps the most telling figures about the future of digital publishing are offered by the questions whether publishers anticipated “significant digital transformation across the book business” within the next five years: 53 per cent agreed, 47 per cent disagreed.

4.4. The Book Value Categories Applied

The electronic book is a medium with possible advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the printed book that shaped and will further shape the context of acceptance. Stephen King’s early attempt to publish stories online, his initial success and eventual failure, showed that it takes more than the loyal readership of a bestselling author to assert a new medium for publishing. Nevertheless, digital possibilities in publishing can enhance content and thereby add value to it. Some areas in publishing have already been relying heavily on digital distribution for years now, namely scholarly journals and reference publishing. Nowadays, in accordance with the book value categories, content value for scholarly institutions is the most important function of publications. Symbolic value of the materiality can be neglected. For academic publications, symbolic value is offered by prestigious publishing houses, renowned academics and positive reviews by established and renowned scholars. Reference works can also increase their potential in digital form with the manifold multimedia possibilities. Digital reference works have been accepted very early on, and the added values can hardly be denied. Initial counter-developments, like the production of lavish encyclopaedias in print, resemble to a degree the counter-reactions during the industrial age like the Kelmscott Press.853 Such developments, may stress the awareness of symbolic value of physical aspects. However, due to its almost nostalgic character, this may also indicate that a transition has (almost) come to its completion at the same time.

E-books in trade publishing are less important but are certainly an important part of the overall revenue by publishers: “Across UK publishers, on average 63 % of revenues comes from print, 32 % from digital and 5 % from ←226 | 227→audio.”854 It is important to note that, in contrast to scholarly publishing, trade publishing is relying much more on individual customers rather than institutions. For now, symbolic value may be more important in that field, but the overall success of the Kindle indicates a growing acceptance of texts without materiality. It seems hard to imagine that the purchase of a licence to access an e-book file offers any symbolic value. So, the question remains whether this symbolic value inherent to author, publisher and text will suffice or whether the category itself becomes less important.

Novels hardly seem to gain from added values apart from ease of access and portability in the sense that many texts can be stored on a reading device. Since they are usually read in a linear way, the important feature of a novel is mainly the text. Therefore, an e-book-version of a novel would simply display the texts on a screen, which is not an improvement. Johanna Drucker even claims that when readers see a literal book, they are already constrained by the idea that it has to be a static and formal origin.855 She elaborates: “Rather than think about simulating the way a book looks, we might consider extending the ways a book works as we shift into digital instruments.”856 In other words, readers are restrained in accepting new possibilities if novels will not adopt new possibilities of the new e-book-technology. Alan Liu even goes so far as to expect some sort of promiscuous development, in which literary elements are mixed with music, film, TV, animation and so on “to concoct an evolutionary stew of hot bits fighting against, and with, each other to create the new media ecology.”857 Indeed, some publications like the ‘digi-novel’ Level 26: Dark Origins by Anthony Zuiker or the webnovel Apocalypsis by Mario Giordano already show this mixture of computer game, film and novel, and break the traditional convention of linear reading in novels. A trend towards such publications, however, cannot yet be detected. Until now, publications like these seem to remain a niche product. Rather, a development in the video and computer games industry is noticeable in which games include more and more text to be read ←227 | 228→and become bookish.858 A noticeable trend with rising numbers, however, is the field of self-published novels. This trend, also supported by services like Kindle Direct Publishing, has become a vital part of digital publishing.859

No matter which format, the vital drawback remains that e-books almost exclusively offer content value. Symbolic value is hardly offered, at least not in the traditional sense by showing books on the bookshelf or the coffee-table. Social networks like Twitter, Read Social or GoodReads might be a way to re-instate symbolic value: online shops like Amazon already offer to share information on social networks about a recently bought item after a purchase has been completed.860 In other words, those websites offer the possibility to show erudition. Other social networks dedicated to reading further make it possible for users to discuss novels or poems and even get in touch with the author, if they wish to do so. In other words, the digital environment offers the opportunity to illustrate what people have already read, what they are currently reading and what they are planning to read. As Andreas Henrich had already anticipated in 2000, within the digital environment, readers develop from passive recipients to active users.861

Economic value is not offered for customers since e-books are not physical objects. The customer of an e-book merely opts for a licensing agreement and pays for the right to read the text on a reading device. This inhibits the possibility for customers to resell their books. However, with datamining possibilities of the big tech firms, customers reveal several of their preferences and reading practices by using e-readers. This revealed information can potentially be exploited by firms for effective marketing, like personalized ads, and other goals can also be seen as extra economic value for the distributor of digital publications.862

←228 | 229→

It should be noted that digital content is oftentimes used to augment printed publications. Journals and magazines, but also printed advertisements, more and more include so-called ‘Quick Response-codes’ (QR-codes), two-dimensional barcodes which can be scanned with tablet computers or smartphones:

The QR-codes are decoded by the device and open hyperlink that usually offers further information: a movie review in a magazine might offer a QR-code linking to the trailer of the film or an interview with the director, an advertising poster might link to an interactive website which further praises the promoted commodity. For the time being, print and digital are less to be seen as competitors but rather as publishing formats co-existing side by side.

←229 | 230→

754 Mosley, “The Technologies of Print,” 106.

755 Van der Weel, “e-Roads and i-Ways,” 48.

756 Pettegree, Book in the Renaissance, 4.

757 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 321–330.

758 Van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds, 143.

759 Van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds, 139.

760 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 316.

761 George Bornstein and Theresa Tinkle, “Introduction,” The Iconic Page in Manuscript, Print, and Digital Culture, ed. George Bornstein (Ann Arbor, 1998), 1–6, 2.

762 Baron, “Introduction,” 9.

763 Alan Liu, “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, eds Raymond George Siemens and Susan Schreibman (Malden, MA, 2007), 3–26, 16.

764 Rachel Ablow, “Introduction,” The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience & Victorian Literature, ed. Rachel Ablow (Ann Arbor, 2010), 1–10, 9.

765 Kate Macdonald and Marysa Demoor, “Borrowing and Supplementing: The Industrial Production of ‘Complete Story’ Novelettes and their Supplements, 1865–1900,” Publishing History, 63 (2008), 67–95, 86.

766 Colclough and Vincent, “Reading,” 294.

767 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Atlantic Monthly, July 1945 <> (accessed: 11.12.2019).

768 Bush, “As We May Think.”

769 Jalobeanu Mihai Stanislav offers a good overview of the project in his conference paper “A 43 years history, passing from the Gutenberg project initiative to the Open Educational Resources movement.” <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

770 Project Gutenberg was sued by German publishing house Springer. Since it offered texts by Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann and Alfred Döblin that were still under copyright under German law (until 2020, 2025 and 2027 respectively), it was ruled that the Project should make these texts unavailable in Germany. Instead, the Project decided to make the complete website unavailable in Germany. For further information, see the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation website <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

771 Eileen Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto, “The Electronic Book,” The Book: A Global History, eds Michael Felix Suarez and Henry R. Woudhuysen (Oxford, 2013) 271–284, 274.

772 “e-book, n.,” OED Online, September 2001 <> (accessed: 11.12.2019).

773 Gardiner and Musto, “The Electronic Book,” 169.

774 “e-book, n.,” OED Online.

775 Daniela Živković, The Electronic Book: The Change of Paradigm for a Changing Bookmarket (Berlin, 2005), 115.

776 Padmini Ray Murray and Claire Squires, “The Digital Publishing Communications Circuit,” Book 2.0, 3.1 (2013), 3–23, 6, 8 and 16 respectively.

777 “Other adjuncts, including audio signals, such as pronunciation of words in electronic dictionaries, impossible to conceive of in printing and hand-produced technologies, will surely follow.” Kilgour, Evolution of the Book, 10.

778 Kilgour, Evolution of the Book, 152.

779 “The Business of E-Books,” PBS Newshour, 16 March 2000 <–16> (accessed: 11.12.2019).

780 M. J. Rose, “The King of E-Books,” <> (accessed: 21.10.2014).

781 Stephen King, “Messages from Stephen,” <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

782 The Plant is still unfinished and its completion doubtful. The published parts are available for free download on his website: <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

783 King, “Messages from Stephen.”

784 William A. Fischer, “Stephen King and the Publishing Industry’s Worst Nightmare,” Business Strategy Review, 13.2 (2002), 1–10, 1.

785 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 321.

786 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, xiii.

787 An early scholarly reaction to the launch of the iPad is Alan Galey, “The Enkindling Reciter: E-Books in the Bibliographical Imagination,” Book History, 15 (2012), 210–247. Galey uses Steve Jobs’ speech as the starting point to a more elaborated discussion about the repercussions on Book Studies. His title refers to Coleridge’s phrase in which he distinguishes performance from text. Similarly, Galey sees a distinction between text and reading device.

788 Neil Hughes, “iPad Sales Reach 25M Milestone, Apple on Track for 8M+ this Quarter,” Apple Insider, 07 June 2011 <> (accessed: 11.12.2019).

789 Apple’s iPad is not the first tablet computer. Previous tablets were released by Microsoft, Nokia and Fujitsu Siemens, among others. However, the iPad is the first mass-market tablet to achieve widespread popularity.

790 The Bookseller Futurebook Digital Book Census 2010, 2010.

791 Futurebook Census 2010, 11.

792 Futurebook Census 2010, 8.

793 Futurebook Census 2010, 17.

794 Futurebook Census 2010, 14.

795 Eric W. Rothenbuhler, “The Compact Disc and Its Culture: Notes on Melancholia,” Cultural Technologies: The Shaping of Culture in Media and Society, ed. Göran Bolin (London, 2012), 36–50.

796 Rothenbuhler, “The Compact Disc and Its Culture,” 49.

797 Rothenbuhler, “The Compact Disc and Its Culture,” 45–46. Rothenbuhler hints at the irony that listening to an MP3 with a hifi set-up actually punishes the listener who has invested in good hardware as the inferior quality becomes apparent.

798 Rothenbuhler, “The Compact Disc and Its Culture,” 39–40.

799 Mats Björkin, “Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Sytems: Files, Objects, Distribution,” Cultural Technologies: The Shaping of Culture in Media and Society, ed. Göran Bolin (London, 2012), 51–63, 61.

800 Claire Squires, rev. “John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture. The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge, 2010,” Logos: Journal of the World Publishing Community, 21.1 (2010), 140–142.

801 John B. Thompson, “A Reply,” Logos: Journal of the World Publishing Community, 21.1 (2010), 143–147, 143.

802 Thompson, “A Reply,” 147.

803 Charles M. Levine, “Introduction to the Logos Reviews of John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century,” Logos: Journal of the World Publishing Community, 21.1 (2010), 137–138.

804 Thompson, “A Reply,” 144. With this analogy, Thompson also points out the challenge of this chapter.

805 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 339–343.

806 Van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds, 148.

807 Van der Weel, Changing Our Textual Minds, 19.

808 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 339–343.

809 Andreas Henrich, “Lesen digital,” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 75 (2000), 339–345, 344.

810 Liu, “When E-Books are the Only ‘Books,’” 125.

811 John Brownlee, “The Kindle Finally Gets Typography That Doesn’t Suck,” Fast Company, 27 May 2015 <> (accessed: 07.12.2019). Brownlee points out the similarities to the over 200-year-old Baskerville type but is overall satisfied with Bookerly.

812 Amazon’s Kindle, for example, uses an abstract system of ‘location numbers’ to allow the individual settings of fount sizes. Liu, “When E-Books are the Only ‘Books,’” 125.

813 Gardiner and Musto, “The Electronic Book,” 166.

814 Bengt Carlsson and Rune Gustavsson offer a good summary of the early years of Napster in their 2001 conference paper “The Rise and Fall of Napster – An Evolutionary Approach,” <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

815 Futurebook Census 2010, 15.

816 Gigi Sohn and Timothy Schneider, “Who Controls Content? The Future of Digital Rights Management,” Media, Technology, and Society: Theories of Media Evolution, ed. W. Russell Neuman (Ann Arbor, 2010), 179–211, 187.

817 Futurebook Census 2010, 17.

818 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 337–338.

819 Futurebook Census 2010, 17.

820 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 369.

821 Thompson elaborates on this “spectre of price deflation” in Merchants of Culture, 368–376.

823 “NZZ-Leser brauchen kein Papier,”, 06.11.2012 <> (accessed: 11.12.2019).

822 I would like to express my gratitude to Jung von Matt/Limmat, especially to Nina Bachmann and Stefanie Tasovac, for permission to reprint the ad. Photography by Maurice Haas.

824 “NZZ-Leser brauchen kein Papier.”

825 Futurebook Census 2010, 17.

826 Though sometimes also called “e-ink”, “electronic paper” is the correct term as “e-ink” refers to the company.

827 Mosley, “Technologies of Print,” 103.

828 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 317.

829 Peter Stoicheff and Andrew Taylor, “Introduction: Architectures, Ideologies, and Materials of the Page,” The Future of the Page, eds Peter Stoicheff and Andrew Taylor (Toronto, 2004), 1–25, 9.

830 Stoicheff and Taylor, “Introduction,” 9.

831 Bonnie Mak, How the Page Matters (Toronto, 2011), 4–5.

832 Shin, “Understanding E-Book Users,” 271.

833 Shin, “Understanding E-Book Users,” 271.

834 Digital Census 2013: The Annual Tracker of How the Book Business is Managing the Shift to a Highly Digital Culture, 2013.

835 Digital Census 2013 reflects the results at the end of 2012. The skipped year is explained with the idea to be a conduit between “where the industry was at the end of 2012 and where they hope it will get to in 2013.” Digital Census 2013, 3.

836 Further respondents are broken down into consultants, agents, distributors, students, start-ups and other, Digital Census 2013, 5.

837 The breakdown of the 2013 census is as follows: UK 64.2 per cent, US 13.2 per cent, rest of Europe 10.5 per cent, Australia/ New Zealand 5.3 per cent, Asia 2.2 per cent, rest of the World 4.6 per cent. Digital Census 2013, 5.

838 Digital Census 2013, 8.

839 Digital Census 2013, 8. Further devices are subsumed under “other including gaming devices, PDAs etc.”

840 Digital Census 2013, 8: “A third (33.0 %) of people forecast a habit of reading across all these platforms, which highlights the importance of cloud-based systems and digital flexibility among publishers and retailers.”

841 Digital Census 2013, 11–12.

842 Digital Census 2013, 15.

843 Digital Census 2013, 26.

844 Digital Census 2013, 16.

845 Van der Weel, “Van waardeketen naar waardeweb,” 33. This version has been translated into English and slightly edited for teaching purposes by Adriaan van der Weel.

846 Dean Golemis, “British Band’s U.S. Tour Is Computer-Generated,” Chicago Tribune, 23 September 1997 <–09–23/features/9709230071_1_music-fans-newsgroup-marillion> (accessed: 25.08.2019).

847 Tim Masters, “Marillion to the Rescue,” BBC News Online, 11 May 2001 <> (accessed: 11.12.2019). The band has financed three further albums this way until 2013.

848 Digital Census 2013, 17.

849 “Kindle - A Decade of Publishing’s Game-Changer: Trade Figures Reflect on a Decade of E-Reading,” The Bookseller, 24 November 2017, 6–7.

850 Results quoted in “Kindle – A Decade of Publishing’s Game-Changer,” 7.

851 Tom Tivnan, “Print’s Seven-Year Itch Scratched,” The Bookseller, 8 January 2016, 14–16.

852 Futurebook 2017, n.p., 4. Over the course of years, the extensive “Futurebook Digital Census” surveys offered by the Bookseller have been, unfortunately, reduced to key findings published in the conference pamphlet.

853 See chapter 3.3.

854 Futurebook 2017, 4. Note that the census does not list specifically what kind of publishers answered the questions, so these results do not necessarily reflect trade publishing only.

855 Johanna Drucker, “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-Space,” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, eds Raymond George Siemens and Susan Schreibman (Malden, MA, 2007), 216–232, 217.

856 Drucker, “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-Space,” 217.

857 Liu, “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” 19.

858 See, for instance, Oliver Holmes, “Detroit: Become Human Review, Meticulous Multiverse of Interactive Fiction,” The Guardian, 24 May 2018 <> (accessed: 07.12.2019).

859 Angus Phillips, “Does the Book Have a Future?” A Companion to the History of the Book, eds Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, 2nd ed. (Chichester, 2020), 844–855, 851–852.

860 Obviously, Amazon is also profiting from such disclosure within social networks. Personal suggestions of books and other entertainment commodities are prone to be more efficient than impersonal advertisements by companies.

861 Henrich, “Lesen digital,” 345.

862 Patrick Smyth, “Ebooks and the Digital Paratext: Emerging Trends in the Interpretation of Digital Media,” Examining Paratextual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture, eds Nadine Desrochers and Daniel Apollon (Hershey, PA, 2014), 314–333, 318.