E-market challenge for paper books

Updated: 2014-04-23 07:08

By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Faced with the pressure from e-books, the publishing industry is undergoing a revolution in the way they produce paper books - upgrading the binding and layout to turn books into collector items, say booksellers and publishing industry observers.

"E-books make it convenient for readers to access the content but they have little value for collection. So the traditional publishing industry should focus on adding to the value of printed books," says Seiichi Mizuno, an adviser for cultural institutes in Japan and former president of the Seibu Department Stores in Tokyo.

Yang Zhao, a writer and literary and political critic based in Taiwan, echoes Mizuno's remarks.

"The main concern for publishers should not be how many words to stuff into a book. After all, you can never beat the volume of an e-book. It should be increasing the added value with sophisticated layout and binding," Yang says, adding that the publishing industry for printed books in Taiwan is undergoing a transformation.

Jong Fang-ling, a publishing and bookselling consultant and freelance writer, says she thinks there are promising prospects for fine books. She has observed encouraging signs at antiquarian booksellers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

"The antique books include age-old editions, original manuscripts and books with exquisite layout and binding. The antique bookshops in the two countries are little affected by the rise of e-books and online booksellers," Jong says.

According to Mizuno, the e-publishing industry will continue to boom, with e-books' market share rising from about 20 percent now to 50 percent in 2020.

Patrick Neale, co-owner of the Jaffe and Neale Bookshop & Cafe in London and president of the Booksellers Association in the UK, predicts that e-books will be "amazing" in five years.

"Now, e-books are boring with only words and illustrations. But in five years' time, they may become really attractive if they enrich the content by adding materials, such as video interviews with the author and photos of where the story is set," Neale says, adding those additions could make it tough for bookstores.

"The other long-term worry is that the next generation may just do everything electronically. For example, an increasing number of schools are giving students iPads for reading assignments," Neale says.

"We have to tell people books are wonderful for relaxation and remind them to pick up printed books."

While some booksellers are calling for people to return to paper books like Neale, Liao Mei-li, co-founder of Eslite Bookstore, one of the largest retail bookstore chains in Taiwan, suggests that brick-and-mortar bookstores embrace the new technologies.

"Bookstores of the future can use the new electronic carriers of books to display their products. The shelves may be full of smartphones, tablets, LEDs rather than paper copies," Liao says.

"With the rapid increase of Internet speed, the content for reading may be not only words but also audio and video, which requires publishers and booksellers to revolutionize their business ideas."


(China Daily 04/23/2014 page19)