Publishing texts (XI): Books, Bytes and Business

Books, Bytes and Business: The Promise of Digital Publishing, by Bill Martin and Xuemei Tian, provides a classic example of how in professional publishing a book can emerge from a grey literature project. Evidently the book began life with a report, presented in 2008, on the implications of digital technologies for book publishing in Australia. Subsequently it was developed into a monograph, published by Ashgate in 2010.

To the credit of the authors, the resulting volume does read like a proper book. The authors have succeeded in placing their research in a wider context. Consequently the interest of the book is certainly not restricted to readers in Australia.

It is divided into three parts. The first, which comprises about one quarter of the text, is ‘Books’. It outlines trends in such areas of the publishing industry as markets, organisations, and consumer behaviour. The second, which again accounts for about a quarter, is ‘Bytes’. This focuses on digitalisation by discussing both the technology involved and its impact on publishing.

The third part of the book, which is by far the longest, is ‘Business’. This discusses knowledge-intensive organisations, supply chains, value chains, business models, and the future of publishing.

I like to think of the book as a companion piece for Electronic Publishing, (reviewed on this blog, 23 January). Though they have different perspectives – Electronic Publishing is geared more to the academic sector, especially librarians and information scientists, while Books, Bytes and Business stays closer to the industry – their interests certainly overlap and so the books speak to each other, as it were.

Electronic Publishing provides more historical context; Books, Bytes, and Business has more to say on the commercial implications. Together they provide a useful overview of the business of digitisation in publishing.

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