During the last two decades the publishing industry has utilized and embraced the significant technological advances afforded by the computer and communication sectors of industry. Lengthy lithographic lead-times for printing and inefficient copy-typing delays are no longer the norm: innovation has breathed life back into a competitive society, removing boundaries which were once the preserve of the large publishing houses.
An author’s essential tools are no longer a note-pad and typewriter, these have been replaced by laptop computers, Dictaphones and word recognition software. The benefits? They’re obvious and plentiful. Notebook transcriptions of scrawled prose is now a thing of the past (although a few die-hard writers still prefer to use this method), most written work is entered directly onto the computer. Page layouts can be altered, as can fonts, spelling errors and text re-modeling. Hard copy prints can be quickly replicated, whereas previously a typewritten copy would need to be photocopied or laboriously re-typed.
It is not only established authors who reap the benefit; the publishing process itself has been simplified by computerization. Customers, bookshops and distributors can now receive Print-On-Demand (P.O.D) book copies which are generated from a digital computer image; this is useful for short print runs, which would otherwise not be cost-effective for a publisher to produce in small quantities. Increasingly, publishers are turning to the P.O.D. option to fulfil post-launch book re-orders, thus reducing warehousing space for the thousands of books that would have previosly have been printed to meet an anticipated consumer demand. Re-print order fulfillment time has been reduced from weeks to no more than a few days owing to the development of digital printing.
The proof reading and typesetting of manuscripts is no longer the arduous time-consuming process it used to be; standard computer wordprocessing packages have revolutionised this task, reducing the timeframe from months to a matter of weeks, with corrections bounced back to the originator rapidly, using email and online applications.Commercial publishers have therefore been able to reduce overhead costs, and streamline businesses an essential move in a marketplace that has opened competition to a wider customer base.
The traditional bookshop marketplace now receives competition from a multitude of online vendors offering discount price books. Many of these vendors do not hold physical stock; they rely on digital P.O.D. technology and an increasing number of e-book sales. This is great for the customer, not so lucrative for traditional publishers.
Authors only receive royalties as a percentage of the net sale price: bargain price books are a boon for customers and an insult to authors, who receive very little income per title released from the market. This has led to an increase in self-publishing and vanity publishing (the distinction between these two banners is often confused, and vigorously disputed within the industry). It is relatively easy to typeset your own book into a pdf format using a publishing software package, it is then a relatively simple task to have it printed; in fact many books are sold as e-books (electronic versions of a book), which are purchased as a digital copy. Implications of copyright infringement and plagiarism as a result of this are subject to much debate at present.
The truth is, that new technology has enhanced the way we access texts, write and amend texts, as well as how we produce the end product; without it, we could not compete in the global market place.