I have been in the publishing industry for many decades, and I follow with great interest all the changes that are occurring at rapid-fire pace in the way consumers want to access and absorb content.
Not surprisingly, there is no dearth of opinions on the future of books and how they will be read. With technology advancing so quickly, no one really knows what the future will hold. It could go the way of Matrix, or it could be a resurgence of print much in the way vinyl records made a comeback.
David Kubicek postures, in his essay ‘The Future of Reading’, that print books are going to go the way of the dinosaur and that future generations will access their content exclusively in digital format:
“I think citizens of that world 100 years from now will know what a paper book is. They'll be able to see one in the museum or pick one up in an antique shop. But all modern books by then will be digital - that is, if books haven't morphed into some totally alien form of communication that we can't possibly envision today [science fiction writers in the 1950s and '60s completely missed the digital revolution].”
Jo Piazza, in an essay in Forbes Women, isn’t as convinced. She believes the problem lies not in print books themselves, but rather in the perceived time constraints people feel about sitting down to read. She addresses the future of content consumption as more like micro-learning, where content is consumed in series, or segments.
She gives the example of a startup company called Serial Box, which secured over $1.5 million in funding in 2017. In this example of ‘serial content’, she compares it to the rising popularity of podcasts:
“[Serial Box] is trying to marry the best of books with the best of podcasts, to give readers the ability to consume stories across different formats and devices. It serializes books into episodes, bite-sized portions that are relatively easy to digest. In the past few months I've heard it called both ‘Charles Dickens for the digital age’ and ‘HBO for Books’.
The company acts as a hybrid between a production studio and a publishing house by hiring talented authors to write new fiction in addition to writing teams who can turn that books into easily consumable episodes released on a weekly basis, just like podcasts.”
Niels Peter Thomas, of the global publisher Springer Nature, falls somewhere in the middle in his essay entitled ‘Reading the Future’, claiming that print books have already survived the digital revolution, but that print publishers need to stay with the times and provide content in all forms:
“People are not wedded to one format or another—print or digital—but in fact pick the format depending on their specific learning situations.
We are still at a very early stage in finding new ways and technologies that help readers to more quickly access and [absorb] the content they are reading. We are now using research to experiment with new ways of displaying book content that builds on the strengths of both e-books and print books.”
No matter where you fall in this debate, one thing is certain: that nobody is certain about the future of how people want to access content. The fact that there is no easy answer is an answer in-and-of itself, and to stay competitive and relevant, authors and publishing houses need to be flexible and prepared to offer content in digital, visual, auditory, and print formats.
One thing our clients can count on is that Digital Content Creators will be there no matter what the future holds to help their content strategy keep pace with the times. We thrive at the intersection of print and digital and offer contemporary content solutions in all shapes and sizes.
As someone who has lived in the world of publishing as long as I have, I find this exciting. Books will hold a special place in my heart – and the hearts of millions – forever, I’d like to believe. But isn’t the most important thing that people remain curious, creative, and imaginative?
The most important thing shouldn’t be how people consume their content, but that they continue to do so with enthusiasm and wonder, don’t you think?