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Industries & Professions /
The publishing industry involves production and dissemination processes to make information, such as literature, music, software, and travel aids, available. A little more than a decade ago, the publishing industry was confined to printed works—traditional books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information, the book industry now publishes in blog, e-book, Web site, and other electronic formats.
This industry employs a diverse workforce to assist in the many stages of publishing. Writers, researchers, and editors develop and refine copy; artists and graphic designers position text and images for readability on the page and on the screen; press and production operators produce physical documents; digital designers and developers prepare electronic publications, and sales and marketing forces disseminate and distribute the products.
Several recent trends have transformed book publishing. For example, the changing technology for e-readers has made these devices more affordable and accessible, resulting in increased e-book sales. In particular, student demand for textbooks, educational materials, and reference volumes is fueling the e-book movement. Other drivers are people getting back to reading, the interest in self-help books, and parents reading to their children. Mobile applications have also impacted the publishing industry, prompting traditional travel aid, greeting card, and music publishers to rethink their delivery models.
Other developments affecting the book industry are Internet sales, self-publishing efforts, and on-demand printing. The Internet has provided an alternative way of ordering books, which has deeply affected brick-and-mortar bookstores. Internet outlets, such as Amazon, have experienced phenomenal growth, many times at the expense—even demise, as in the case of the Borders Group—of traditional booksellers. Today, some authors are also taking on the role of publisher and self-publishing their own work. In these instances, the author controls all stages of the production and distribution processes. On-demand printing refers to producing books as they are needed. This method usually allows high-quality books to be printed in a cost-effective manner.
Publishers, especially those in the atlas, music, and greeting card arenas, are in tight competition with other producers of entertainment and knowledge-enhancement media because technology is rapidly changing and opening up new options for expansion. Atlas publishers have seen their businesses go by the wayside as people abandon paper maps for global positioning and satellite systems. For instance, Waze, a mobile computing app navigation application used by more than 50 million people, as of June 2013, employs crowd-sourcing technology to inform users of real-time traffic patterns and detours. IBISWorld, an industry and market research company, reports that map publishers will be challenged as their markets retract throughout the next decade.
Music publishers, those who “songplug,” license intellectual property, and collect revenue, are also losing ground as physical album sales plummet. Listeners now pay less for music through streaming and flattening downloadable fees. IBISWorld reports that music publishers must evolve by partnering with mobile services, streaming outlets, and wireless services, where, for example, sales of ringtones based on popular songs can generate significant income.
Publishers of greeting cards and stationery products are forecasted to decline as customers use less expensive digital means and mobile technologies to send greetings. Industry analysts point to innovative products, including calendars, journals, and artworks, to keep this sector afloat. IBISWorld reported an annualized decline of 1.9 percent in this area during the five years leading up to 2013, with a rough outlook predicted through 2018. In contrast, sales of online greeting cards grew 2.5 percent annually in the same period.