Florence, By the Book conference, May 2014: The digital book (r)evolution: barriers to innovation

I’m preparing a paper for this conference, and looking for any views on the topic – feel free to leave a comment, or get in touch for a conversation. Conference details:


The draft for the proposed paper

Publishers do not (yet) see a market for inventive digital publishing […] But what if the reason we have not seen any real success in innovative ebooks is not a lack of market, but something else altogether?

(Independent publisher David Wilk, digitalbookworld.com, 24.10.2013)

Developments in mobile technology have recently led to the extensive adoption of e-readers and computer tablets. But whilst ebooks (essentially a remediated form of printed books) have become normalised, the often anticipated spread of media-rich ebooks, enhanced ebooks and story apps – which keep structural affinities with printed books but also add features that are gradually transforming reading experiences – has been rather challenging, and often driven from outside publishing.

Publishers have been very careful to invest, and high costs of production mean that it is difficult for self-published authors to drive innovation. Additionally, divergent production formats, fragmented channels of distribution and inconsistent supply chain classifications (leading to discoverability issues) make any breakthrough difficult and threat innovation and creativity.

The paper investigates recent industry contexts and developments, drawing on the analysis of innovative works, industry websites and publications, and interviews with publishers, authors and digital producers to interpret the current state of affairs for innovation in digital books.