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ATG Book of the Week: Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing

by | Jun 30, 2022 | 0 comments

TITLE: Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing
AUTHOR: John B. Thompson
HARDCOVER: ISBN: 978-1-509-54678-7, $35; PAPERBACK: ISBN: 978-1-509-55493-5, $26.95; eBook: ISBN: 978-1-509-54679-4, $28
Imprint: Cambridge, UK ; Medford, MA : Polity Press, 2021


This book tells the story of the turbulent decades when the book publishing industry collided with the great technological revolution of our time. From the surge of ebooks to the self-publishing explosion and the growing popularity of audiobooks, Book Wars provides a comprehensive and fine-grained account of technological disruption in one of our most important and successful creative industries.

Like other sectors, publishing has been thrown into disarray by the digital revolution. The foundation on which this industry had been based for 500 years – the packaging and sale of words and images in the form of printed books – was called into question by a technological revolution that enabled symbolic content to be stored, manipulated and transmitted quickly and cheaply. Publishers and retailers found themselves facing a proliferation of new players who were offering new products and services and challenging some of their most deeply held principles and beliefs. The old industry was suddenly thrust into the limelight as bitter conflicts erupted between publishers and new entrants, including powerful new tech giants who saw the world in very different ways. The book wars had begun.

While ebooks were at the heart of many of these conflicts, Thompson argues that the most fundamental consequences lie elsewhere. The print-on-paper book has proven to be a remarkably resilient cultural form, but the digital revolution has transformed the industry in other ways, spawning new players which now wield unprecedented power and giving rise to an array of new publishing forms. Most important of all, it has transformed the broader information and communication environment, creating new challenges and new opportunities for publishers as they seek to redefine their role in the digital age.

“This unrivaled account of the book publishing industry as it faces its greatest challenge since Gutenberg will be essential reading for anyone interested in books and their future.


Reviews

“An expert diagnosis of publishers and publishing, robustly illustrated with charts, graphs, tables, statistics and case studies… For anyone bewildered by the transformation of the book world, Mr. Thompson offers a pointed, thorough and business-literate survey.”
The Wall Street Journal


“Thompson takes the reader on a wild and exciting ride exploring the changes that have turned book publishing on its head over the last 30 years, with the development of many new technologies that readers may have come to take for granted or never considered… well worth reading to understand where the book was in the latter part of the twentieth century and where it is headed well into the twenty-first.”
LSE Review of Books


Book Wars is as comprehensive, wide-ranging and deeply considered an appraisal of the book publishing world as one can imagine – and a sober consideration of what the digital age has meant to a print-centred business. This masterful work should be the foundation for all future thinking about book publishing, and much future thinking about how new technologies change – and don’t change – societies.”
Michael Schudson, Columbia University

“Thompson weaves together a remarkable account of how and why one of the oldest forms of media has persisted through the challenges posed by digital disruption. Extraordinary in its breadth and depth, Book Wars unpacks the complex implications of digital production and distribution and draws crucial lessons that are relevant well beyond the world of books, providing a valuable lens for examining the profound changes that internet communication has brought to nearly every sector of the economy, and especially media industries.”
Amanda Lotz, Queensland University of Technolog
y

“John Thompson was there when the digital-driven changes were in full swing, and he uses his bird’s-eye view and thoroughly researched analysis to give the reader the story behind the stories. And it’s a great read too.”
John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Publishers USA

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