The Change of Consumers’ Attitudes toward e-Bbook Reading and Possible Resolutions to Future Challenges of Traditional Publishing Industry
During the past decade, the migration of physical books to electronic screens has been reinforced with the unveiling of mobile reading devices such as Kindles, iPhone, Sony Readers and the Google Book Search engine. Even the form of books has been enhanced by the embedding of interactive features that allow the book not only to be read, but also re-edited with a variety of medial tools. For example, 3D Issues.com, a website for digital books downloading, features the self-design software for the publications that one could choose to colour the text or background of the publication as well as embed media interfaces in it (3D Issue). A new generation of eReaders may be achieving the long-awaited breakthrough that is intended to change consumers’ reading habits from paper and ink. While some opportunists see the advent of digital reader technology as an expanding of a new target market, others fear that the rising of Ebook would mourn the end of traditional book industry and retain control over pricing and content. This paper aims to look at the change of consumers’ attitudes toward digital reading that becomes contemporary issues and challenges to the traditional publishing industry, and how the industry can overcome or avoid these challenges through a variety of policies.
According to an online questionnaire used to interview 1,000 people between 18 and 65 in each of the surveyed countries including Germany, the United States, and United Kingdom, consumers have at least a vague idea that books can also be read in digital form and on specific devices (PwC, 2011). Less than one-fifth of respondents said that they owned at least one eBook. The report also indicates that eBooks are generally purchased by younger, well-educated adult males who like to read; on the other hand, non-buyers tend to be older and female consumers who read and buy books less frequently. In comparison with one-third of Germans surveyed who have not heard of an eReader, less than one-fifth of the people interviewed in the United States and the United Kingdom said that they were unfamiliar with such devices (PwC, 2011). This distribution explains the importance of eBooks particularly for Americans and British that they already have the advantages over choices of thousands of books with a light electronic device. And there is much stronger interest in eReaders in the United States and UK; considerably, more consumers in these countries are attending to purchase eReaders; however, consumers tend to prefer to use eReaders over multifunctional devices because of the fact that add-on functions such as music, camera, telephone, video, and other applications result in a higher price.
As Perryman, author on the Houston Business Journal blog page, claims that “ In much the same way that movable type encouraged the spread of literacy, word processing has become routine for many (including chief executive officers and kindergartners) who once wrote little or not at all.” (Perryman,1997). Books are not just an object for purely reading. Furthermore, readers no longer have to retrieve book conents at a specific place through the only medium (paper). This phenomenon has flipped the relationship between the reader and the traditional library collection. For example, books that are physical with weight of papers are limited to carry, but the situation becomes vice versa as eReaders such as Kindles and iPad that are light weighted allow their storage of thousands of books in one single hard drive. This easy accessibility creates successful convenience for readers who likes to read a variety of book; therefore, there is a potential trend that more and more people would select eReader or eBooks over physical texts as long as they are willing to accept the price of the “one-time” interface (Grzeschi, 2011).
While many experts consider advances in the book industry to be an opportunity, and believe that eBooks can complement printed books, some concern that new types of reading devices can encourage more book readers to buy eBooks more often; as a result, publishers may see an increase in digital sales, but actually lose the hardcover and paperback sales with lower circulations, increasing in the unit costs of production. The pheromone has increasingly become more realistic and reachable in the near future; in fact, the popularization of eBooks is not only changing the value chain in the book industry, but also challenges the future for traditional book industry. Even though many publishing companies may actually benefit from this new market because of the prospect of additional business in the digital market. If the company fails to take the opportunity, then it might find itself at a disadvantage with regard to the competition and may eventually lose revenue and market share. Another challenge that publishers faces with digitizing books is whether the book industry would be led to follow the old steps of music industry, which has made a huge failure in maintaining its copyright. In order to avoid the repeating strategy, there requires a new business model with a wider range of content and clarifications regarding the issue of copyright. Publishers will need to adapt their business processes in integrating content properly, and editor will have to understand the features of eBook thoroughly. Also, legal departments will have to devote more attentions to rights for eBook and draw up fee models for different circumstances. As a result, publishers will concentrate to an even greater extent on the role of a content provider that these ideas can be established upon technological aspects in eBooks.
In terms of bookstores, the challenge would be whether they are able to survive with lower sales mainly due to the competition with giants such as Amazon and Indigo. In addition, the increasing distribution of eBooks will be a big factor in future business models. Bookstores will also have to put more effort on building and maintaining relationships with customers through consumer knowledge, profiling, customized recommendations and the ability to complement local selection with online products. In sum, even small bookstores will have to meet the challenge posed by the digitizing process; this is because the market’s systems enable an independent online shop to establish itself. However, this would still be difficult for bookstores to achieve at the moment.
Wholesalers and intermediaries are also facing some of the challenges. It is true that services such as transport and storage are no longer applicable; however, intermediaries have retained their clearing functions. They might also offer contract clearing. Another challenge facing intermediaries is that they will also have to position themselves as relevant service providers in digital business. They would have to invest in technology and skill such as hosting for documents, conversion, eBook storage, or delivery of eBooks; however, this is not necessarily the case that intermediaries would provide these services.
The use of paper as a knowledge storage has been a long tradition; we use paper to acquire, provide, modify information, and most importantly, read. Physical books have a certain social connotations that cannot yet be replaced with digitalized text. Today, reading and writing as culture technologies are still grown in importance. Although we can look back at more than 35 years of computer supported document processing, paper is still the preferred media for reading for many individuals in the last few years (Rao, 2004). This is not only due to battery concern of the electronic devices but also unsatisfactory interfaces and presentation principles. Nevertheless, the features of electronic reading devices have become more intellectual and user-friendly that they may eventually change the reading habit of contemporary consumers. The key of maintaining the cultural equality would eventually be a balanced contribution of paper and screen qualities that make both eBook and physical book a unique form to achieve specific information and to fill the need and satisfactions between printed and digital information.
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