Creator to Consumer in a Digital Age: Australian Book Production in Transition

Philip Calvert (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 December 2003




Calvert, P. (2003), "Creator to Consumer in a Digital Age: Australian Book Production in Transition", Online Information Review, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 452-453.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

Book publishing has not changed much for hundreds of years until very recently. The same stakeholders are involved, the same production processes are still there, and the business model hasn't changed at all. Within the last decade information and communication technologies have presented the publishing industry with a real opportunity to make significant changes, and with the adoption, albeit cautious, of digital book production, there are signs of changes appearing. This volume is the first in a series written as part of a joint project between Common Ground Publishing and RMIT University that is based on research funded under the Infrastructure and Industry Competitiveness Scheme (EPICS) of the Australian federal Department of Industry, Science and Resources. It is a very welcome addition to the literature. There are other works available on book publishing in transition, but there probably isn't anything as comprehensive as this series.

Between the “Introduction” and “Conclusion” are three sections: the “Business case”, the “Technology case”, and the “Cultural case”. Throughout, problems with traditional book production are made plain; it is labour and capital intensive, payments are low and slow, and processes are generally inefficient. There are some obvious changes apparent in modern production, especially the disintermediation that has occurred (especially as authors do more of their own layout than ever before) resulting in some trades disappearing. However, now roles have been created in the business model. What really strikes the reader not closely involved in book production is that, although ICTs have opened up new possibilities, there actually are not too many new products being produced as yet. E‐books are one obvious example of a new product, but one has to say that they are not hugely different from traditional print books – perhaps consciously, given the consumer's attachment to the old and loved form of book. Where changes have started to appear, they are mostly in the business model, such as in the slow rise of “print‐on‐demand” publishing. This makes it possible to publish more titles, because there is much less capital at risk on each new title, and the “print run” can be very small and yet still leave the publisher with a profit. The editors have coined the term C‐2‐C (modelled on the well‐known B‐2‐B) for “creator to consumer”, which is the most radical of the business models for electronic books in which books are sold or even hired directly to the customer.

It is difficult to see the role that libraries will play in the new book publishing world. Intermediaries such as wholesalers and the distribution agents are threatened by creator‐to‐consumer publishing. Are libraries – another kind of intermediary – similarly at risk? Perhaps not. After all, libraries have always played their most significant role in intellectual access rather than as distribution agents. The development of electronic library access to monographs, e.g. via eBrary, is still in an early stage and we do not as yet know how much library customers want this kind of service. Such discussions are not within the scope of this title, but the book certainly helps set out the situation in digital book production, and helps librarians analyse it from their own perspective. This is recommended for librarians who want to keep an eye on the future of book publishing.

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