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  • Derya Dinç

The Impact of Technology on Publishing

Technology, an integral aspect of our lives, has brought about a world that our predecessors could never have fathomed. Rapid technological advancements have transformed us into a society where smartphones, a mere 140-year-old invention, reside in our pockets. With this device, we book hotels, and flights, manage finances, track health, and instantly access global news. In a realm where business correspondence is now exchanged through platforms like WhatsApp rather than emails, various sectors are navigating this technological wave at differing paces.

Unquestionably, the publishing realm stands among those most profoundly affected by this digital transformation. In an era where ebooks dominate and free content rivals bestselling novels, certain book genres struggle to compete with online material, even fading from existence. However, should these shifts unsettle the publishing professionals? I contend that they need not. When we scrutinize human history, it becomes evident that this isn't the initial major alteration in written communication. Reflect on the transition from murals to clay tablets, and from there to parchment. Similarly, the shift from typewriters to the luminous screens of computers proved equally challenging yet rewarding. While the transition from printed books to digital content may pose initial challenges, its benefits will emerge over time.

The digitization of books furnishes several advantages. By publishing digital content and amassing a broad social media following, countless authors gain the opportunity to disseminate their work globally. Ebooks, eliminating printing, paper, and logistical processes, offer readers content at more accessible prices, thus fostering increased reading rates, particularly in developing nations.

Furthermore, ebooks possess an edge over print in terms of interactive content. This interactivity, especially prominent in children's books, permits enriching features like audio narration, photo galleries, puzzles, quizzes, coloring pages, and jigsaw puzzles embedded within the text. In an era where parental time is limited, such features, including audio narration, gain prominence as reading time decreases.

Does this transformation entail no setbacks? Unfortunately, specific segments of publishing are more vulnerable to technological shifts. While domains like culinary and technology books risk vanishing entirely, challenges await drawing and art books.

Cookbooks: The world of cookbooks experiences the most pronounced impact from digital transformation. The proliferation of recipes, food blogs, and instructional videos on social media and video platforms has rendered traditional cookbooks largely redundant. Consumers now opt for visual, detailed instructions presented through videos, which often offer more comprehensive guidance than text-based formats. For instance, a search for "Tomato soup recipe" on Google generates a staggering 95,900 video results, with the top YouTube video amassing over 2.2 million views since its release in 2014.

Technology Books: Books delving into technology, coding, and software skills, once bookshelf staples, now face competition from online courses and user-generated articles and videos. Additionally, the breakneck pace of technological advancement renders printed tech guides obsolete before they reach readers, making their shelf life exceedingly short.

Travel Books: Travel guides, which once guided adventurers with insights on accommodations and destinations, now contend with apps and websites such as The ubiquity of applications with features enabling travelers to compare experiences, view user-uploaded photos, and secure optimal reservations has shifted the dynamic.

General Information Books: Volumes offering fundamental knowledge across diverse subjects face competition from online resources. Search engines yield millions of results on various topics, offering easily accessible and up-to-date information.

Drawing and Art Books: One of the areas that are still resisting the digital transformation is drawing and art books, but the internet has started to take the lead in this regard as well. A search for “charcoal human figure” in Turkish yields 402,000 results, and there are over a thousand videos on the subject. When you make the same search in English, the number of videos that appear exceeds two million. Although these books still have an average sales figure among students and hobbyists, it seems inevitable that they will disappear in the face of free alternatives unless they are supported by online content. The future of drawing and art books doesn't look very bright either, thanks to the online content and courses offered by professional illustrators and artists.

Children's Books: Children's books continue to enjoy robust sales, particularly in regions like Turkey and publishers often do not regret the investment. Families are always generous when it comes to buying books for their children, and children's books are always one of the most popular gifts. Although technological development does not directly threaten children's books, rapid progress in other fields creates many new competitors every day. In particular, the new generation growing up while depending on technology more and more makes digital transformation necessary. Digital children's books bring with them many alternatives and enrichment options that printed publications can never offer. Although the publishing industry does not foresee a decrease in the sales of printed children's books in the short term, it is thought that these books will be one of the areas that will be most affected by digital transformation in the long run.

The publishing industry is more closely tied to its traditions compared to other industries and publishing companies have a hard time adjusting to the new developments. This is why ebooks are debuting within tech companies like Amazon and Apple, rather than publishing giants like DK and Penguin. For this reason, our industry has lost control of the emergence of ebooks by the technology giants. But ebooks don't seem like a change that publishing can resist. New York Times reports reveal that ebook sales increased by 1,260% between 2008 and 2010. However, the same reports also explain that ebook sales have reached a stable figure over time and that we are not yet nearing a fearful end for print publications. The Survey Monkey site shares the following statistics on the issue:

As these statistics show, most readers today (at least in the US) prefer both ebooks and printed books, but print still seems to have a sales advantage over ebooks. Other statistics given on the same site show that book readers find this format more comfortable or prefer this method because they travel frequently.

But there is little doubt in the industry about the long-term results. As the rate of the new generation dependent on technology increases, a great change awaits the sales numbers we encounter today. Studies conducted in developed countries today show that six out of ten people prefer printed books, but this rate is expected to reverse in the future. More than 60% of those surveyed by Survey Monkey predict that ebooks will be the most popular format in the future.

Today, we access the content we need in many areas such as music, movies, advice, and news from digital sources. We live in an era where newspaper circulation is falling and magazines are turning to online content. The increase in the number of smartphones reinforces this phenomenon, and ebooks are no exception. In 2012, 24% of ebook readers used their phones, this rate rises to 54% in recent surveys. Factors such as the time it takes to reach the content, the number of content you can have (and carry with you), the price difference, and the fact that no bookstore can have all the titles you want, show that the future of ebooks is bright.

Ebooks also offer advantages in publishers' business models, as they reduce costs, keep the book in sight for longer, and reach a wider audience. The problems created by printed books getting damaged in storage or during shipping, or returning from bookstores because they weren't sold can be a thing of the past. Sales reports become easier to follow and you can easily access statistics consisting of demographic information specific to each title. Thanks to the sales on digital platforms, you can access various information such as whether women or men prefer your book, and to which age group you sell more. For authors, ebooks are full of advantages. Authors who get the chance to publish their content without being affiliated with a publishing house also ensure that their books reach a wider audience (at least abroad). As the businesses that take a share from the profit of the book, such as publishing houses, distributors, and bookstores, decrease, the author can make more money. This increases the number of career writers.

Another advantage brought by ebooks lies in areas where the publishing industry has difficulty competing. Printed publications, affected by the invention of television, faced even greater competition after the advent of the Internet. Today, books compete with movies, TV series, social media platforms, and online video sites that are increasing in quality and availability. The ebook allows our industry to be more competitive with others in factors such as accessibility, and price. Thanks to the ebook, you can immediately start reading from your smart devices instead of waiting for the book you ordered to arrive, just as you can download the movie you want to watch immediately.

When we think of the horse carriages, typewriters, DVD rental shops, and simple cameras that have disappeared with the development of technology, the future of printed books doesn't look very bright. Publishers seem to have no choice but to accept that the technology will go hand in hand with their industry. Think about how quickly publishing adjusted to social media advertising. The publishing industry may have missed the first big steps like the advent of the ebook phenomenon and lost the edge to the tech giants, but there's still time to make up for the past mistakes. Big publishing companies should be on their toes not to miss the next big opportunity that technological developments will create for the industry, and they should have employees in charge of technology. Undoubtedly, we can successfully carry publishing into a new century by following new developments and cooperating with technology.



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