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Publishers must closely follow in the footsteps of technology

By Sun Ye | China Daily | Updated: 2012-09-26 11:14

Major publishers from China and Europe have called for a revamp in the industry business model as books become digitalized.

"The digital revolution appears to be a groundswell," says Fabrice Piault, deputy editor-in-chief of French magazine Livres Hebdo.

He is among a group of experts and professionals from China, France, Ireland and Denmark who spoke at the EU-China Roundtable on Digital Publishing, one of the string of events at the recent Beijing Book Fair.

Piault says the art of storytelling and presentation is evolving fast. "While music on whichever platform is still music, books are incorporating sounds, games and augmented apps," he adds.

Publishers must closely follow in the footsteps of technology

Digital publishing is big business in China. According to a report released by the 2012 China Digital Publishing Annual Meeting in July, the total turnover of the Chinese publishing industry stood at 137.79 billion yuan ($21.86 billion) in 2011, while the annual growth rate stands at about 30 percent.

Zhang Li, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, says publishers should be extremely mindful of the challenges from new technology.

According to Zhang, the biggest problem with China's digital publishing industry is publishers' reluctance to ditch their old ways and think creatively with new technology.

"Many publishers only move content routinely across platforms. But they refuse to tap on the other capabilities of technology," Zhang explains.

Xie Haimin, an editor with Beijing Yangsheng Culture Broadcast Co, recently helped launch several knitting magazines on Apple Inc's App store. The information in the physical and virtual magazine is similar. While the iPad version features charts, the physical book has charts on the last few pages. Perhaps the only difference is in the weight of the media tool - iPad is heavier than the book version.

According to Xie, the e-magazine has so far garnered enough paid downloads to make him happy.

Zhang says such attempts are not meeting readers' evolving needs.

"Consumers are now used to reading in fragments, on electronic devices and on their cell phones. They're used to push notifications and multimedia. Publishers should be aware of such changes," Zhang says.

"Create a platform where readers can generate contents. Try out tools like the search engine and experiment with e-readers," Zhang suggests.

Wang Changying, director of the international corporation department with Foreign Languages Press Co, is always comparing notes with her American counterparts.

She says while the status quo seems acceptable in China for now, the US has ventured into the age of cloud visualization, and they are constantly improving.

"If we don't follow closely, new technology will leave us far behind," Wang warns.