INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PUBLISHING TRENDS AND CONTEXTS

The highlights of international conference on Publishing trends and contexts Pula, Croatia

Proceedings of EPUBCONF : the International Conference on Publishing Trends and Contexts, Pula, 6-7 December, 2013

Publishing trends and contexts conference took place in Pula, Croatia, on December 6-7, 2013 and has gathered a group of experts from prominent European universities and professionals from publishing business in order to address two crucial questions: what is the value of publishing contents on small markets compared to big ones, and what successful business models best fit to the small language markets. Most of speakers, needless to say, observed these questions in regard to new technologies and phenomena of e-publishing and e-books.

Conference has been arranged by departments of information sciences at the Universities in Zadar and Osijek, two leading Croatian institutions in the field of publishing studies, and has gathered experts from Sweden, Scotland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Croatia. Together with The e-books research project managed by the Universities of Gothenburg and Borås (http://projectebooks.wordpress.com/) and International Book Science Conference organized by Vilnius University (http://www.ibsc.kf.vu.lt/) this new conference reflects both the rising interest in modern publishing on smaller European markets and reinforcement of ties between publishing as dynamic and progressive industry and scientific research of its trends and contexts.

The conference, on one hand, crystallized out many similarities of small markets, but on the other showed great distinctions in overall acceptance and infrastructural support for e-content development. In the opening speech, Professor Tom Wilson (University of Borås) pointed out that the e-book is a disruptive technology, perhaps as disruptive as the invention of movable type, but also that we are still searching for the acceptable model of e-publishing, still being in the age of prototypes. He emphasized the initial publishers’ involvement in the development of new technologies, from software solutions to e-readers, which was in the course of time overshadowed by new entrances, particularly of techno-giants. The important questions become where do they enter in conventional publishing chain and how do they change, for example, the editorial or marketing functions. Professor Wilson concludes that “there may be further adjustments in the roles of the different players in the publishing & distribution arena”, but also that “the e-book and its associated technologies are not yet mature technologies”, that further developments may be expected, and that different countries proceed at different paces.

These conclusions were supported by a number of presentations focused on the state of e-books in different small language markets, showing that there is no “small market” in singular. Miha Kovač (University of Ljubljana) and Clare Squires (University of Stirling) presented situations in Scotland and Slovenia, Arūnas Gudinavičius (Vilnius University) in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Ewa Jablońska-Stefanowicz (Wroclaw University) in Poland, and Franjo Pehar and Zoran Velagić (Universities of Zadar and Osijek) in Croatia. Markets are different in size, in readiness to accept the new publishing models, in number of publishers who are developing new products, in e-book prices which usually range between 4 and 8 Euros, and so on. The general impression is that only connections are similar technologies and generally accepted e-book formats, while in all other aspects markets greatly differ. Being aware that technologies are still in the phase of prototypes, that participants in publishing chain have different views on their roles and chances in new publishing dynamics, and finally that attitudes and behaviours of many chain links are still insufficiently explored, the importance of approaching the markets from comparative perspective through aligning publishing practice and scientific methodologies gets the full meaning. Two lectures thus pointed out the inadequately explored areas. Skans Kersti Nilsson (University of Borås) put an emphasis on the readers, indicating that simplified researches into reading an e-book versus reading a p-book does not reveal all the aspects of extremely complex and deeply subjective act such is reading. One should at least take into consideration motives for reading, such as pleasure, escapism, education, self improvement etc. Aušra Navickienė (Vilnius University) put the modern publishing into historical perspective, showing that already in the 19th century publishers faced the very same dilemmas as today. Not everything that appears as a brand new is really new, and sometimes lessons from the past can help in solving modern problems.

Perhaps the greatest differences among the analyzed book markets appear at the level of infrastructural support and traditional publishers’ partners, namely libraries. Elena Macevičiūtė (University of Borås) spoke about more than 10 years of Swedish experience in lending e-books in public and National libraries, that resulted with a new phase of development, encompassing the issues with New library law (2013), and incited few libraries to try out new models and develop new initiatives due to the unsustainable nature of present e-book lending models. At the same time, Dunja Seiter Šverko (National and University Library in Zagreb) warned that, although the legal deposit of electronic publications in Croatia was provided by the Library law already in 1997, in practice, first serious system for e-books that is still in testing phase was created only in 2012.

There were, of course, many discussions about situation in Croatia. What is striking at the first glance is a huge share on non-commercial projects, reaching almost 50% of all e-book titles available in Croatian language. Such situation could be explained by perception of a book as a primarily cultural good, while their commercial dimension comes into the second plan (also true for the Slovenian e-book market as Slovene publishers see themselves as cultural agents). Consequently, the first Croatian e-book projects started as digitization of highly valuable texts that were put in open access. One of these projects is e-Lektire, presented by Zvonimir Bulaja (Bulaja publishing) which gives the obligatory school reading in free access and which has 80.000 registered users, more than any similar web site in Croatia. The context of subsidized, non commercial projects and their importance for small markets was discussed by few speakers (Dubravka Đurić Nemec from Croatian Ministry of Culture, Ivona Despot from Ljevak Publishing and Tomislav Jakopec from University of Osijek) who challenged the potentials and possible implications of national cultural strategies in promoting e-books and their reading in general.

On the other side, it appeared that commercial projects are very small in scale: sale of e-books has been so negligible, explained Marin Maletić from the leading national e-book distributor TookBook, that they decided to face the market with new business model: lending instead of selling e-books in Croatian. They started with trial period just few weeks ago. Other speakers discussed even more problems. Josipa Selthofer (University of Osijek) presented a research on e-book design that revealed omnipresent page to pixel model, meaning that e-books in Croatian imitate graphic design of a printed book. Nives Tomašević (University of Zadar) discussed the problem of classification of publishers’ products within the national creative industries, demonstrating the absence of clearly constructed and harmonized nomenclatures that appears as a huge obstacle for market analyzes and plans for future developments. In finishing lecture Mirna Willer (University of Zadar) discussed the needs of strategic cooperation of publishers, libraries, users/consumers etc. for the benefit of all parties, with special accent on the need for developing practical and widely usable publishers’ metadata, closing the conference with a question: “are we prepared for the new technological platform – the Semantic web and linked (open) data?”

Among many conclusions which stem from the presentations and discussions at the conference, three are of particular importance. Firstly, small market has many faces. Markets are shaped by local and global cultural and intellectual heritage, by tradition of publishing and reading practices, by multifaceted political and economic processes, by scope, infrastructure, modes of reception of books and so on. E-books are not meeting ideal, naive readers, but markets which are already formed by numerous past and present developments. Secondly, small market is always bilingual, if not multilingual. E-books accessible in national languages, most often via national platforms, are minority regarding the books in English available from global distributors. And thirdly, although the conference approached the small markets in comparative perspective, results are not always easily comparable since different countries are approached with different methodologies. Thus, a common instrument, such as questionnaire for different participants involved in book business that would be simultaneously applied in different countries along with the same methodology of collecting and analysing data would greatly contribute to better understanding of publishing practices and book reception at diversified European small markets.

The organizer's intent is to ensure a continuity of the conference and its regular annual meeting. More details are available at conference web site:
http://epubconf.sanjamknjige.hr.


Invited
speakers

Topic 1: Value of Content Topic 2: Successful business models in electronic publishing – new contents and revitalization of old contents, platforms for distribution of publishing contents

Accepted
papers

Organization
Sponsors
Program Committee of the conference
Organizing Committee of the conference
Blogs on publishing trends and contexts

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