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Like other sectors, publishing has been thrown into disarray by the digital revolution. The foundation on which this industry had been based for 500 years – the control, packaging and sale of words and images in the form of printed books – was called into question by a technological revolution that enabled symbolic content to be stored, manipulated and transmitted quickly and cheaply. Publishers and retailers found themselves facing a proliferation of new players who were offering new products and services and challenging some of their most deeply-held principles. The old industry was suddenly thrust into the limelight as bitter conflicts erupted between publishers and new entrants, including powerful new tech giants who saw the world in very different ways. The book wars had begun.
While ebooks were at the heart of many of these conflicts, Thompson argues that the most fundamental consequences lie elsewhere. The print-on-paper book has proven to be a remarkably resilient cultural form but the digital revolution has transformed the industry in other ways, spawning new players which now wield unprecedented power and giving rise to an array of new publishing forms. Most important of all, it has transformed the broader information and communication environment, creating new challenges and new opportunities for publishers as they seek to redefine their role in the digital age.
This unrivalled account of the book publishing industry as it faces its greatest challenge since Gutenberg will be essential reading for anyone interested in books and their future.
Table of Contents
1 The Faltering Rise of the Ebook
2 Reinventing the Book
3 The Backlist Wars
4 Google Trouble
5 Amazon’s Ascent
6 Struggles for Visibility
7 The Self-publishing Explosion
8 Crowdfunding Books
10 The New Orality
11 Storytelling in Social Media
12 Old Media, New Media
Conclusion: Worlds in Flux
Appendix 1: Sales data from a large US trade publisher
Appendix 2: Note on Research Methods
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