Digital marketing is a very broad generalisation of the marketing of various products or publications in a digital format. The publishing industry has been around for centuries and so has their marketing techniques. However, the way in which digital marketing has developed since the 1990s and 2000s has changed the way brands and businesses utilize technology and digital marketing for their marketing. Digital marketing campaigns are also becoming much more powerful as well as efficient. As digital platforms are increasingly incorporated into marketing plans and everyday life, as people use digital devices instead of going to physical shops. Or access various services online rather than purchasing in person.
However, generally speaking there are nine types of marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), public relations (PR), social media marketing, content marketing, affiliate marketing, viral marketing, influencer marketing, and digital/online/web marketing.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a type of marketing of which its goal is to help you rank higher up in Google searches. Most businesses require this to run successfully, some more than others. It is one of the strongest types of digital marketing you will come across. Of all the clicks in search results, 94% of them go to organic listings – not PPC. The methods have altered and changed over the years; but the target is still the same. To put your business higher up the list for potential or recurring customers when they search the Internet.
As mentioned above, pay per click (PPC) is also a form of marketing. Unlike SEO which is about ranking highly long term in the organic listings, PPC is usually about paying a specific search engine directly to be up there. When people refer to PPC they are most likely referring to the ‘sponsored’ links you find in Google searches; however they may be talking about ads in any search engine such as Yahoo or Bing. These links can normally be spotted easily and usually have a note to inform you it is sponsored. These can also be picture ads found on other websites. It is one of the forms of digital marketing that is completely short term and will only work so long as you are paying for the service. Once you stop paying, the ad will no longer exist. Anyone can use this method and profit from it but prices can vary and it is extremely high risk if the business doesn’t know what its doing.
Public relations (PR) cannot be overlooked, and although it’s not technically just a form of digital marketing it can have a large impact on digital marketing outcome and results. Out of all of the types of digital marketing, PR is one the most likely of techniques to gain the most exposure fastest. Public relations is based on business or service exposure, whether that’s in a news article or holding an event, its aim is to get your business well known out there and in the right places to thrive. New businesses benefit hugely from this technique but even huge well known companies continue to use it on a regular basis.The ultimate type of digital marketing for the publishing industry is content marketing. It involves combining several methods together to build a business into a serious success. These methods being SEO, PR and Social Media Marketing. Content marketing is a method that uses great content that your customers will want to read to encourage new sales and leads online. It can be content found anywhere – from YouTube to podcasts, tweets to infographs. However most often it’s blog content on your website, driving new traffic through search engines like SEO. The downside is that it requires a lot of time and dedication, and can be the most expensive form of digital marketing; but you get out of it what you put into it.
Unlike other types of digital publishing, there is no upfront cost for affiliate marketing. You can sit back and relax and let someone else do the marketing for you. However like most things, there is a catch. If they bring in a sale, you have to share the profits. By recruiting ‘affiliates’ for your business or service they draw in leads. In a basic sense they are sales people who are paid on commission when you make a profit. The ‘commission’ is determined entirely by you (the business). There are variations however; some organisations will offer a percentage of the sale made while others may offer a flat rate per product. Affiliate marketing is where you recruit ‘affiliates’ for your business, and they draw in leads. Affiliates are like sales people that you pay on commission. The ‘commission’ is determined entirely by you; some organisations offer a percentage of the sale made, others offer a flat rate per product. This marketing technique is mainly used for B2C, e-commerce businesses, simply because you have to be able to track the direct sales and where profits come from for it to work effectively. The best part of this method is obviously the cost or lack of cost. However it does of course mean giving control of your brand to strangers. It’s usually only a good thing, but might depend on what service you wish to provide. Therefore you have to be smart and set out clear terms and conditions before you dive in.
Viral marketing is very similar to PR in terms of speed of exposure, however viral is much more effective in a different way. Viral marketing involves getting a piece of your content to simply go viral; it could turn your business into an overnight success. To make your next marketing campaign can take a combination of a number of the other types of digital marketing – such as content marketing, PR and social media marketing – but it can also lead to some amazing results for your business. Viral marketing is when you release content that is strange, hilarious or ‘current’ in a popular topic at that time, which gets you noticed and shared – a lot (mainly via social media). It usually causes a big spike in traffic to your service over a short period of time. Viral marketing can help any business, however the biggest successes have come from large B2C businesses. This is mainly because the consumer goods are going to reach a much bigger audience than a smaller business, which is less well known. This method can however be achieved by any company that produces the right thing at the right time.
A much newer and exciting type of digital marketing is influencer marketing. It is equally effective as the other methods, however in contrast it is vastly different. Influencer marketing is relatively new – but it’s a very exciting form of digital marketing. It’s vastly different from the other types of digital marketing, but can be equally as effective. Influencer marketing is where sales are driven solely by striking a deal with someone who already has a following and ‘influences’ the same target market as you. For example, it’s like how Pepsi might sponsor Britney Spears as it’s spokes person. If your target market was other entrepreneurs for example, you might try to get Richard Branson on board to help market your business.
However in this day and age, with digital marketing as such a key element to drive any form of sales, and the prominence of social media sites; influencer marketing is extremely popular. For example, striking a deal with a popular instagrammer and getting the person to wear your brand of clothes or promote a certain product or service with a few photos – and this can influence huge sales for your business or service. But these days, with social media, it goes much further than that. If you can strike a good deal with a popular and relevant instagrammer and get them to wear your brand of clothes in a couple of photos this can massively increase the likelihood of your target market. This method is again mainly used by B2C eCommerce business owners, but not solely. For example, you could attempt to get an influencer in your industry to tweet about your business and this would also count as influencer marketing and be great exposure.
Digital, online, website marketing. These are all the same things. And they cover all of the digital marketing techniques above. It’s also referred to as an umbrella term. This means it covers all aspects, therefore when marketing for your company you should ensure you figure out which of the services you really want to use to reach your target audience before going to an agency that does this, so you know exactly which types of digital marketing you should ask for. Knowing your target audiences demographic is also a requirement for a successful marketing campaign in the publishing industry. Digital marketing doesn’t usually include PR but often includes a collaboration of any of the above.
The Rise of Audiobooks
Audiobooks are a beacon of hope for the future of digital publishing, boasting rapid growth in sales and popularity in recent years largely owing to their ability to adapt with modern day culture. For many people with busy lifestyles and a smartphone, listening to an audiobook is not only enjoyable but more convenient than taking the time to read a traditional print book.
A current Technavio report predicts that the publishing industry will earn over USD 357 billion from 2016 – 2020, with profitability relying on the continued development of digital publishing. With this in mind, how can the industry capitalise on the rise of digital audiobooks and make sure that their surge of popularity is not just a fad?
Apps and Audiobooks
One of the key reasons that audiobooks are finding success in the current economy is because of their agile nature – they are accessible on the go on a wide variety of devices. For example, Audible, an audiobook retailer, have developed multiple versions of their app to be compatible with over 500 different devices for users to download audiobooks onto. The development of apps will always continue, and as long as the technology exists, audiobooks will be readily available to users at their fingertips.
However, the cost of developing and constantly updating these apps is extremely high. On 27 October 2016, Amazon had to shut down their Kindle app for Windows 8 because it was too expensive to keep the app functional across numerous operating systems.
This is bad news for digital audiobooks because if a customer is only using a device whose app is then shut down, they could potentially lose all of their purchases unless they are willing to spend money investing in a new device to run a different version of the app, which is unlikely.
If Amazon, an industry giant, are struggling with high development costs, how can other publishers and retailers hope to nurture the growing trend without customers being put off of audiobooks, opting for older, more reliable formats such as printed books that cannot be rendered useless by technological problems?
Making Money and the ‘Model of Free’
Perhaps the biggest issue with digital publishing is the assumption that digital products should be cheaper to both buy and produce, which is often not the case. Where traditional printing and distribution costs are saved when producing digital audiobooks, the cost of developing apps, websites, and high quality content can make the process just as expensive.
Audible is a successful retailer who generates revenue through subscription packages. Members are given ‘credits’ to redeem a free audiobook per month (or more, depending on how much the user is willing to pay), plus up to 70% off the price of other titles after that. Alternatively, users can purchase audiobooks at full price without paying for a membership.
Scribd also implements a subscription service but, unlike Audible, users get unlimited access to every title in their catalogue, offering more than just audiobooks. This freedom is how Scribd has cultivated over eighty million monthly users. Both Scribd and Audible use month-long free trials to entice new customers to their sites.
Whilst these may be prosperous business models for big retailers with well-established customer bases, it can be harmful for the overall audiobook market. High volumes of subscription revenue mean that these businesses can license audiobook downloads at undercut prices or for free, which drives smaller audiobook providers out of business.
The Limitations of ‘No Limits’
In 2012, Bardowl was founded and branded as ‘Spotify for audiobooks’. For a monthly fee of £9.99, members could stream as many audiobooks as they liked, unrestricted, as with Scribd’s business model. A major selling point was that Bardowl would allow users to stream audiobooks instead of downloading them, saving precious device storage space. This gave them a competitive edge over Audible and other companies that do not have this option.
“We think this is an excellent way to increase awareness of the availability of audiobooks alongside their printed and digital counterparts.” – Chris Book, Bardowl co-founder.
However, no matter how amazing this model was for users, Bardowl fell victim to over-listening and closed down in 2015. The subscription revenue could not cover the amount owed to publishers in royalties from the volume of audiobooks being streamed. In comparison, Audible only allow users one or two free audiobooks per month; they generate extra revenue from any additional audiobooks downloaded whereas Bardowl did not.
“The fact is that, except at Christmas, most books are bought by a small group of people who buy a lot of books.” – Alastair Horne, Press Futurist.
Even Scribd have suffered from over-reading. In 2015 they had to cut the number of romance novels available to users because their revenue could not cover royalties due for the number of times certain titles were downloaded. The difference from Bardowl’s situation is that Scribd had a much larger customer base to keep them afloat during this time, proving how difficult it is for smaller retailers to survive and contribute to the digital market when large scale companies still struggle.
Corporations like Audible are typically more trustworthy for publishers who are sceptical about going into business with unpredictable digital companies, which unfortunately limits the quality and quantity of titles made available to Bardowl and similar businesses.
Publishers being reluctant to trust developing digital companies and formats is a leading cause as to why ventures like Bardowl aren’t succeeding. Not taking a leap of faith with innovations for the future is what may potentially stagnate the audiobook market. The combination of big corporations and publishers is advantageous for audiobook listeners, but the consequential discounted and free audiobooks are bad when trying to sustain growth.
Audiobook sales contributed £12m to the publishing industry last year, which equates to only 0.4% of the total industry revenue. But is this minor market share caused by the lack of small audiobook retailers and corporate dominance or simply general consumer attitudes towards audiobooks?
Many people love audiobooks and how easily they fit into a daily routine. Ashton Newton, Entertainment Editor for The Western Journal says “Whether it is an hour in between classes or a lazy Sunday afternoon, time spent doing almost anything can be enhanced with an audiobook playing.”
However, a YouGov survey on audiobooks found that 83% of people polled say that they never listen to audiobooks and 55% believe that listening to an audiobook is a worse experience than reading a book. People tend to prefer a physical copy of a book, and even if they would listen to an audiobook, they may not necessarily want to spend their money on an intangible, digital product. So how can the publishing industry resolve this issue and make audiobooks more desirable, adding value to them whilst also combating cost issues and industry resistance?
Libro.fm seemingly have all of the answers, having found an intriguing way to provide a real experience for the customer. Like Audible and Bardowl, Libro.fm is a digital service where users can purchase audiobooks online from a vast range of authors straight onto a device.
But, in terms of adding value, Libro.fm have partnered with the American Booksellers Association and over 150 independent bookstores in the United States to allow customers to browse audiobooks physically in a partnered bookstore before purchasing and downloading them onto a device.
“We noticed that while sales of digital audiobooks are growing at a rate of 30 percent a year, independent bookstores had no way to participate in the growth of the market. So we listened to bookstore owners, authors, and publishers to help shape Libro.fm as the first audiobook company which directly supports the independent bookstores we love.” – Mark Pearson, co-founder.
Not only is this a novel idea for customer experience and satisfaction, but it supports independent bookstores, helping them generate revenue from audiobook sales where they would normally lose out to digital companies like Audible. This presents customers with a variety of options that will expand the audiobook market within the industry.
Here to Stay
It is fair to say that digital audiobooks are not going away any time soon. Despite high production and development costs, audiobooks have a place in today’s busy, digital lifestyles, appealing to a wide range of people. To make the most of their growing popularity, publishers and retailers need to find the right balance between large-scale subscription models and out-of-the-box customer service to provide a ‘reading’ experience that no other format can.
With Libro.fm proving a success, promoting digital audiobook opportunities for independent bookstores, it is not so ridiculous that audiobooks and traditional print go hand in hand and that the future of digital publishing is not simply the future of publishing.
In July 1995, a year after being founded as Cadabara, Amazon.com–an online bookseller–went public on the world wide web. The launch of Amazon.com marked a huge turning point in bookselling. Today, Amazon is no longer just a bookseller, but a creator of eBook tablets, phones and most recently a hands-free speaker named, Echo. It is also the world’s largest Internet-based retailer, selling everything from Shoes to Dog Food. Despite the revival of Print sales and Independent bookshops increasingly becoming a choice for purchase for readers alike, Amazon still has an Iron Grip on the Book Industry. No matter how hard the Book Industry tries to remove themselves from the Iron Grip that Amazon has on their industry, they can’t, simply because they can’t afford to do so.
Amazon’s Market Share
In 2014, Amazon’s market share for eBooks stood at 67%, with just 33% market share coming from other eBook sellers. Their market share for all books sales–online and physical stores, print and digital–is only 41% in comparison to all other booksellers who have 59% market share. However, in just Online Sales of all books (print and digital), Amazon has a 65% market share and other online booksellers only have 35%. Although their market share doesn’t dominate all book sales, these figures aren’t positive. Amazon has no such competition online or in eBook sales. Something that isn’t positive when shopping online is a quick and easy way to buy a book with little effort involved.
Amazon vs. Hachette
In 2014, Hachette–one of the Big Five publishers–contract with Amazon expired. Amazon wanted to extend the contract, but with new conditions. The main condition being that Hachette lower most of their eBooks to prices $9.99. Hachette did not respond, clearly unhappy with this term. 3 months after Amazon contacted Hachette about extending their contract–still without a reply–Amazon extended their contract anyway with the old terms. Except there was a catch. Amazon ceased all preorders on Hachette books, one title effected was Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J. Rowling), The Silkworm. Books that usually were delivered within a week or less, took 2 to 5 weeks to be dispatched and some Hachette titles weren’t surfacing when searched for. As a consequence of this, Hachette and their authors had fewer sales on their books. Associated Press reported that Hachette said that 5,000 titles were affected as a result of Amazon withdrawing preorders and listings of Hachette’s books. Amazon fought very dirty, ‘“First, Hachette was willing to break the law to get higher e-book prices, and now they’re determined to keep their own authors in the line of fire in order to achieve that same end. Amazon has made three separate proposals to take authors out of the middle, all of which Hachette has quickly dismissed.”’ The dispute between these companies came 2 years after the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and Big Publishers (Hachette included), for illegally colluding to get Apple to raise eBook prices, in hope of forcing Amazon to do the same. Apple and all Publishing Houses involved lost the case.
John Green, best known for his bestselling Young Adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars, criticised Amazon in book dispute in an Associated Press’s, The Big Story article saying, ‘What’s ultimately at stake is whether Amazon is going to be able to freely and permanently bully publishers into eventual nonexistence.’ Amazon came under fire for the way it tried to negotiate with Hachette. Before the long-running battle began between the $10billion dollar Publisher and the $122billion dollar retailer, Amazon was famous for being in the media very little. This battle threw them into the limelight and they didn’t particularly come out well because of it. They also didn’t win their fight, with Amazon caving in and allowing Hachette to have more responsibility over their eBook prices.
Books Bite Back
6 years ago, when the evolution of technology was growing at a rapid speed, it was predicted by some that physical books were going to die out in the next five years. They were wrong. In the past year–5 years after that prediction–print book sales made a 2% increase. Print books are still going strong. Nielsen commented that one of the titles to thank for the increase in printed book sales was the late Harper Lee’s, long-anticipated, To Kill a Mockingbird squeal, Go Set a Watchman. Adult Colouring Books and Celebrity book releases also played a substantial part in the sale figures of printed books rising.
In the same year, Waterstones stopped selling Kindles and eBooks outside the UK, which added shelf space for more books and as a result saw a 5% rise in sales.
EBooks took a hit
Whilst printed books made an increase in sales, eBooks did not. EBooks sales from the ‘Big Five Publishers’ declined by 2.4%. This decrease came after just over a year since the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute was settled. In which Hachette wore Amazon down, and got it wanted: the freedom to have control over some eBook prices. This new-found power the Publisher gained has meant an increase in the pricing of their eBooks, in a move they called, ‘critical to its survival’. This step is said to be a contributing factor for the decline in eBook sales.
Amazon won’t go down without a fight
Amazon is determined to hold on to books forever. Book sales only account for 7% of what Amazon sell as a whole. Amazon sells an incredible amount books, yet this figure seems rather insignificant. Is it insignificant when you consider the sheer size of Amazon and the fact that it sells almost everything?
As well-known and previously mentioned, Amazon started out as a bookseller. Is this why Amazon are so determined to grip on to the Book Industry? No matter the cost it has on their reputation? Books overall make up just $5.25billion out of Amazon’s $75billion annual revenue (7%). Amazon’s determination to continue having a share in the book market has now resulted in them branching out into Brick and Mortar bookshops. A move Amazon have made to become a leader in increasing print sales. The first store opened in Seattle in 2015, with three more having opened since then. Rumours are now floating around suggesting that Amazon is planning to open a considerable amount more, three to four hundred as reported.
Amazon and Indie Author’s
Amazon has a finger in every pie; in book-selling, book-buying, and due to their Kindle Direct Publishing program, in book-publishing as well. ‘Self-publishing has its success stories, but has also caused concern among many in the industry. The fear is that Amazon could end up doing to independent authors the same thing it has done to publishers — make them reliant on a system and then use its leverage to negotiate relentlessly.’ Self-published writers, more commonly known as Indie Authors, release books that don’t have
Bowker-issued International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) attached them. As a result of this, according to the website AuthorEarnings.com, when sale figures are monitored, and market share percentages are released by Nielsen and Bowker, they fail to include the portion of Indie Author’s books that make up the sales in the eBook market. Furthermore, as discussed in Author Earnings, October 2015 report, when non-ISBN sales are included in eBook market statistics, the US eBook market is 50% larger than statics that only include the Bowker-issued ISBN sales. Despite not being included in conventional eBook sales statistics, Indie Authors clearly sell a lot of books, and if they are publishing or selling them through Amazon then they are making Amazon an incredible amount of money as well. 44% of all Kindle eBooks being purchased on Amazon in January 2016 were released by Indie authors.
Can anyone break Amazon’s Iron Grip?
Amazon has played a big part in bookselling for 20 years and they are worth billions and billions of dollars, so the likelihood of anyone being able to break Amazon’s Iron Grip on the Book Industry may seem unlikely.
However, there are some factors that can have an impact Amazon and their Iron Grip: eBook prices are too expensive for what they are. I personally switch between a Kindle and Printed books. If I see a book as a Kindle edition and it costs over £4 I won’t buy it. It isn’t a physical copy so therefore paying for something that will get pushed back on my Kindle as I buy more books and then become potentially forgotten isn’t something that appeals to me. However, I would pay that and more if it were a physical book. Kindle versions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm were pulled unexpectedly in 2009 because of a copyright issue. All of those who owned those books lost their notes and highlights, and never got them back. Proving that the value of eBooks just doesn’t match up to the value of printed books. Independent books stores are becoming increasingly popular because they provide an experience that you can’t get online. Thirdly, can e-readers progress any further? New versions of Kindle’s don’t progress very much from older versions. Products that can’t keep up with technological advances die out eventually, BlackBerry for example who have now stopped designing phones because they couldn’t keep up. And lastly, Amazon suffered a setback in their public image because of the way they handled their very public battle with Hachette.
In hindsight, Amazon will probably have an Iron Grip on the Publishing industry for a long time, but there are some things that Amazon simply can’t recreate when it comes to buying and reading books. And as print makes a “comeback”, perhaps people will stop reading their e-reader, go into a bookstore and relive the excitement and experience that comes with trawling through a beautiful bookstore and finding that perfect read.
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According to a recent study, of 1,500 adults, by The Book Trust ‘36% [of those asked] often start a book but get bored and 35% cannot find the time to read.’ Thanks to the abundance of different social media platforms available at your fingertips, the world of digital publishing is having to evolve to accommodate the busy reader. Which begs the question ‘So how do you sell books to somebody who doesn’t normally read? […] Make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available’.
Nowadays the book itself is seen as more of an object of nostalgia. Due to a society where information is processed rapidly publishers have to create new ways for their consumer to read with as little effort on their part as possible. This emergence of convenience first resulted in the development of the eBook on a tablet or Kindle, however even now they are becoming outdated. Today publishers are utilising the convenience of the smartphone to create reader apps, on which literature can be published and read, without the need to carry round a large tablet or even selection of books. But what are reading apps, and what do they mean for the future of digital publishing?
How did we start reading digitally?
Firstly, let’s look at the beginnings of digital reading. In 2007, Amazon revolutionised publishing and the way we read with its release of the Kindle. The corporate mega-giant promised us an e-reader, a digital book that provided convenience and ease of reading anywhere you could imagine. So great was the need for this reading platform that it resulted in the Kindle being sold out within the first 5 hours of it being available to order and it still continued to be almost impossible to order due to its high demand for another 5 months. However, despite this initial demand, e-readers such as the Kindle have become a thing of the past. Although e-readers may have introduced consumers to a way of reading digitally the future of digital publishing arguably lies firmly in the device we all hold in our hands, the smartphone. Amazon’s strongest selling point with the Kindle was the fact that it offered a way to read your favourite texts anywhere. However, although the e-reader is more convenient than carrying around 10 or so books for whenever you feel the need to read when out and about, surely it is more convenient for us to read on a device that we already carry around, our mobile phones? This is where publishers turned to smartphone reading apps in order to keep their customers, the busy readers.
But what’s the difference between e-readers and reading apps?
In essence e-readers are a portable tablet or device that contains a library, specifically curated by the reader. This platform allows your consumer to read anywhere, given they have the device present, change font and typography size and thus make the reading experience easier and more comfortable for their individual needs. However, the devices can be clunky. E-readers have come under fire from critics for being outdated as why is it necessary to carry around a separate device? Yes it is more convenient than a physical library itself, but not as convenient as a phone. That’s why publishers turned to reading apps. In theory they work in a similar way to eBook readers as a library is available on a portable device, however the consumer doesn’t need to buy or carry around an extra device as these apps are available to download directly to your phone.
Spritz: The extreme reading app experience
Mobile reading apps aren’t necessarily all about reading on a small screen, personalising the size and typography of the text or having the ability to click on URL links. The future of digital publishing has expanded to meet the needs of the commuting mobile reader, and it has resulted in different types of reading apps themselves. One of the most extreme versions of reading apps that encompasses the whole need for speed and convenience is Spritz. This new app uses Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) where ‘words are displayed either left-aligned or centred.’ RSVP has been adapted by publishers on digital publishing platforms, like Spritz, to increase the speed in which a piece can be read. This app takes RSVP and uses this particular alignment of words to allow the reader’s brain to distinguish the full word or sentence from just parts of the word itself. Publishers have applied this technique to an app for Android and iOS to create a sensation of speed reading on any E-pub literature. In its purest essence Spritz allows the reader to read a piece of text on a mobile screen at a faster pace than their brains would be able to comprehend if the words were merely on paper, or even laid out in a traditional book style on an E-reader.
But why do we need to speed read on reading apps?
What is wrong with traditional digital publishing that just replicates a book on a digital platform? In essence publishers and authors have accepted the idea that ‘readers today have neither the time nor the capacity to reading especially long works of fiction.’ In a way Spritz solves this problem. Not only does it provide a way of reading that ensures that it is easier to read at speed, but also it is available on your smartphone for ease of access, creating reading as ‘to some, merely an app, on par with Angry Birds’.
However, how viable is this often trivialised digital reading platform for the general reader, rather than just the commuter or business professional? Guardian writer Rob Boffard took on the challenge of reading the lengthy Man Booker Prize winning novel, To Rise at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, which, ‘at 110,000 words or so, it’s not particularly lengthy, but given that the average adult reader clocks in at between 250 and 300 words per minute (according to a 2012 study), it would still take around six hours to finish.’ With the speed reading app Boffard could, in theory read and more importantly comprehend the story within 3 hours. Although this may seem unnecessary this speed of reading and greater comprehension that Spritz allows could revolutionise the way we read. Students could read lengthy text heavy literature on the bus using just their mobile phones. What’s more Boffard illustrated that ‘Spritz works beautifully’ because it uses scientific visual recognition to ensure that the reader understands all the words on the page, and thus less time is lost compared to reading leisurely on a Kindle.
However, despite these fast-paced and convenient benefits to this particular reading app, there are drawbacks. Arguably, Spritz has an incredibly niche and restricted audience as a digital publishing platform. Spritz demands complete concentration as the words flash on the screen meaning that Boffard ended his experience in ‘agony […] My eyes were aching […] fingers had locked, claw-like, around my phone. And although I tried to take breaks, my neck was starting to ask very pointed questions about why I was putting it through this.’ Although the mobile app allowed the lengthy novel to be finished in 4 hours and 11 minutes the intense dedication it took to read the book was far from a pleasurable experience.
So, is Spritz itself as a mobile app going to overshadow e-readers as a reading platform? In short, no. Spritz provides a unique reading experience for a niche type of audience with a specific purpose, reading quickly. As Bofford explains in his analogy ‘At the moment, reading a novel on Spritz is like riding a unicycle from Shepherd’s Bush to Brick Lane. You can do it, but there are far more pleasant and logical ways to get there.’ Although Spritz and other mobile reading apps allow you to read more easily than on an e-reader and is more portable than carrying around a book it is highly unlikely that it would be used to read for pleasure as it gives the reader no opportunity to linger over sentence constructions and imagery, rather provides a tool for absorbing literature quickly.
So, are reader apps shaping a new generation of reader, or merely accommodating a growing consumer base?
All in all mobile apps cannot be ignored in the future of digital publishing. As long as smartphones are in a reader’s hand they will have the ability to act as a viable publishing platform. Rather than reader apps creating a new generation of readers that read on their mobiles, reading apps are actually allowing publishers to accommodate the already growing consumer group that have a need for a platform that is convenient.
However, are apps like Spritz arguably just an over exaggerated form of the convenience and speed that mobile readers want? It would be ignorant to ignore the possibility that reading apps will most likely over take e-readers as the next platform in digital publishing as they provide better ease of reading and are more convenient to the commuting reader. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that e-readers will go extinct, as much the same way that the nostalgia of hardback books didn’t disappear once the Kindle was launched. Rather these new developments in speed reading and mobile apps provide a platform for a specific type of reader to read a specific genre of literature. Evidently, reading will not be lost in a fast paced evolving world as ‘76% say that reading improves their life, and the same number says it helps to make them feel good.’, thus reading for pleasure and platforms that allow leisurely reading will always be an important consideration in digital publishing. Nevertheless, mobile apps provide an interesting new way of reading that publishers are taking full advantage of in the literature they publish on this platform and the writers they seek out.
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