The Digital Book (R)evolution - By the Book 2014, Florence - SLIDES & NOTES


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Conference programme

Digital media are changing the ways in which books are produced and consumed. In their wide diversity, digital "books" (from enhanced ebooks, to story apps, to game books) challenge the borderlines between books and other forms of digital media. Digital books simultaneously diverge from print books, drawing on other genres and conventions linked to digital affordances, but are also remediating print books, in terms of content, genre conventions, aesthetics, and so on. This presentation starts proposing a typology of digital books that takes into account media convergence, multimodality and remediation from print. Which, by the way, the author thinks will never die out!

Conference committee
Benoȋt Berthou, University of Paris 13 (LABSIC)
Ernst-Peter Biesalski, HTWK, Leipzig
Alberto Cadioli, University of Milan
Pascal Durand, University of Liège
Miha Kovač, University of Ljubljana
Angus Phillips, Oxford Brookes University (Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies)
Adriaan van der Weel, University of Leiden

Associate partners
Association for Publishing Education
Federation of European Publishers

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
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The Digital Book (R)evolution - By the Book 2014, Florence - SLIDES & NOTES

  1. 1. By the Book Conference, Florence, May 2014, Claudio Pires Franco The Digital Book (R)evolution UNESCO Chair Project! Crossing Media Boundaries: New Media Forms of the Book! (Prof Alexis Weedon) 1! @clauzdifranco! LinkedIn: Conference Programme! _programme_for_Publishing_Studies_conference_-_Florence_23_and_24_May_2014.pdf! • I will start with a statement that pretty much sums up the reactions of the books industry to recent digital changes By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  2. 2. –Angus Phillips, Turning the Page, 2014 “This is an exciting period for the book, a time of innovation, experimentation, and change. It is also a time of considerable fear within the book industry as it adjusts to changes in how books are created and consumed” 2 “This is an exciting period for the book, a time of innovation, experimentation, and change. It is also a time of considerable fear within the book industry as it adjusts to changes in how books are created and consumed” ! • The year is 2014, and everyday magazines dedicated to the analysis of the book industry publish articles discussing the threats and opportunities posed by digital media. The word digital - whether loved or hated - has acquired virtually mythical and omnipresent status in publishing • The importance given to digital can be seen in the whole raft of industry apparatus dedicated to it • There are organisations and websites such as Digital Book World and Future Book by The Bookseller in the UK; • there are tens of conferences every year exclusively dedicated to the topic, and hundreds of workshops and seminars dedicated to digital in the more general publishing sector events (e.g. O’Reilly’s Tools of Change at Bologna; or the Digital Innovation hall at the Frankfurt Book Fair); • and finally there are courses with digital strategy experts advising publishers • In fact, the digital revolution has generated a whole sub-industry that discusses and advises on digital publishing. • It is very likely that this very industry - and related discourses which pose digital as a threat and create the need for help to survive its danger - shaped the very notion of the digital revolution: how fast it is, how different it is, where it is leading • In my presentation I will try to approach digital with cautious optimism By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  3. 3. The Digital (R)evolution Context ❖ Analysis focus is on the “West” (mainly UK and US)! ❖ Most visible changes now in trade publishing! ❖ Familiarisation with ebooks! ❖ Wide access to mobile media devices! ❖ “Maturity” in the uses of the Internet (Web 2.0)! ❖ More media - more fiction - consumed! ❖ Disintermediation: rise of self-publishing! ❖ Non-publishers Amazon and Apple 3 • Digital - to be understood as the whole set of digital media, digital production practices, digital devices and consumption habits - has already changed the professional and education publishing segments - now, changes are visible in trade (or consumer) publishing • The biggest change is probably the establishment of ebooks, especially for adult fiction • There was a very fast growth from around the start of the decade, followed, it seems, by a plateau… • There is now wide and growing access to mobile media devices: tablets and smartphones - which means new platforms and affordances to be explored, • There is ongoing exploration, “maturity”, and diversification in the uses of the Internet (user-generated content, co- authoring, live feedback, reader reviews, crowd-funding, and others) • Overall there have been increases on the average time spent consuming media, namely in the fiction genre • Then there is the rise of self-publishing - through many new platforms; and news of publishers paying 6 figure sums to secure rights to the work of self-published authors (the majority of which still dream of being picked by a publisher…) • And we also witnessed the rise of non-publishers in publishing: Amazon and Apple dominate the ebook and app markets By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  4. 4. The Digital (R)evolution Context ❖ Media conglomerates and media convergence (cross-media flows) ! ❖ Publishers experimenting with - and expanding into - other media circuits; publishers as cross-media “brand nurturers”! ❖ Recognised potentials of digital media affordances for publishing! ❖ Experimentation driven from outside book publishing! ❖ Partnerships and joint expertise in new kinds of publishers! ❖ New formats, new ways of writing, new publishing practices, new roles for readers... 4 • Vertical and horizontal consolidation strategies and media convergence in cultural circuits of production: wherever they originate, stories and IP travel across media - publishers have less power filtering content (e.g. Moshi Monster bestselling children’s book in UK for months); the typical path of book to film to game has been replaced by complex networks of cross-media and transmedia flows - often driven by the commercial interests of large corporations that operate across media. • Book publishers - and often authors, on their own - are experimenting in different media environments (enhanced ebooks, apps, games, even creating TV and film production arms) • The potentials of digital media affordances for book publishing are perceived as great - and more or less suitable for different purposes and genres • Experiments that go beyond simple ebooks seem to be happening in reference and education (the realm of knowledge), but also in children’s books (the realm of storytelling) - not as much in adult fiction • Experimentation has been steady, often driven from outside traditional - big - publishing - reminiscent of 1980s CD- ROM era where technology firms drove innovation, until virtually all major publishers had their own CD-ROM department • A lot of the innovation is in the form of partnerships, commissioning digital formats to technology firms in other sectors, or new ventures that mix publishers with technologists or digital media experts (e.g. Touch Press) • Overall, the establishment of digital has meant relatively rapid changes in the ways books are produced, distributed and read, and very noticeably the introduction of new formats that draw on both old and new conventions By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  5. 5. Image credits: Per Palmkvist Knudsen, Creative Commons • In this presentation we will look at the ways in which books are changing in a myriad of digital forms; at how innovation is linked to social, cultural, technological and economic factors that either facilitate or inhibit it. • And reflect on the very definition of “book” and the eventual need to rethink existing definitions and blurred lines between older and newer media By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  6. 6. A Brief Chronology of the Book: Before Ebooks (Format and Technology) 6 The ‘Digital Era’ From 1970s 1980s 1990s Encarta Mid 1990s Online delivery E-readers Sony,! Kindle iPad ePub3 Computers in production CD-ROMs Best App: Disney Animated Amazon: ebooks ahead of pbooks Ebooks plateau 2006/7Late! 90s 2011 20132012 iBooks Author 2010 2013 2014 Barefoot Atlas: 10 best apps all time • Experimentation with digital in the book industry isn't exactly new. • 1970s - Computers start to be used in the production of print books - According to Paul Luna’s chapter in the book A Companion to the History of the Book, it was all about reducing costs turning text into publishable data, and extracting maximum value from the data. The bulk of this slide is based on Luna’s and Chadwick-Healey’s chapters in that book. • Importantly, as Luna states the “printed output [is] only one of [the] aims” (392)… - a file can end up as a printed book, an ebook, or be adapted into a myriad of other formats; Luna (393) suggests that now “any print publication should be considered as just one instance of that text” • This notion of file means that digital media facilitate the perception of content as independent of format • This idea of content as being independent of format is linked to ongoing discussions around whether books are simply “containers” - in other words, does format affect content, which for me is more a question of “To what extent does format affect content?” It certainly does, to a certain degree, for example to adhere to a specific structure or number of pages in print, or the recent digital trend of short - or shorter - stories, on mobile phones and serialised ebooks. These suit the media “snacking” behaviours of our times. • 1980s CD-ROMs - Grolier’s “The Knowledge Disk” encyclopaedia • 1993: Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopaedia (initially planned in the mid 80s but put on hold due to commercial doubts; its first sales were very low - it was expensive at $400; then prices were lowered, and it was given as an integral part of Microsoft software bundles. The content was based on an existing print encyclopaedia, with the addition of photos and illustrations, music clips, videos, interactive contents, timelines, maps & atlas and homework tools) This may sound familiar if you use digital textbooks or reference apps • Dorling Kindersley’s The Way Things Work sold 1.25 million copies; CD-ROM publications worth £25m/year • By the mid 1990s: almost every major publishers had a “multimedia department” to publish CD-ROMs. But they didn't drive the change and experimentation - this was done by technology firms and new digital publishing ventures. • CD-ROM “enabled print publishers to become electronic publishers” • The decline of CD-ROM was brought about by the “migration” of content to the Internet, which for the most part offered free access to similar content as found in reference disks - albeit perhaps less well-curated. • In the mid 1990s online delivery became established, starting with reference books, bibliographic databases and journal articles - not an entire surprise given the first users of the Internet were scientists, researchers, academics… for whom having easy access to the latest research papers is a big help! • Professional and academic publishing moved online - this facilitates searching, reduces printing and production costs and timings, and the need for storage in libraries • The Internet also became the medium of preference for books such as dictionaries - online they are easily updatable, on an ongoing basis, and quickly becoming more authoritative than their poorly updated print counterparts By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  7. 7. A Brief Chronology of the Book: After Ebooks (Format and Technology) 7 The ‘Digital Era’ From 1970s 1980s 1990s Encarta Mid 1990s Online delivery E-readers Sony,! Kindle iPad ePub3 Computers in production CD-ROMs Best App: Disney Animated Amazon: ebooks ahead of pbooks Ebooks plateau 2006/7Late! 90s 2011 20132012 iBooks Author 2010 2013 2014 Barefoot Atlas: 10 best apps all time • The ebook era • E-readers were launched in 90s. Initially they weren’t very successful, but once they improved in terms of design and functionality - and were accompanied by strong distribution systems - sales figures rose. The Sony reader and later the Kindle were references, with Kindle currently dominating the market. Interestingly, and contrary to the idea of the digital natives, older people were the biggest customers of e-readers… while younger ones were busy trying PlayStations and and Nintendos… • The mobile era • In 2010 the tablet arrived - and the world changed, or so it’s told in the realm of the digital creative industries • We then saw ebooks overcome print books in terms of volume and value of sales on Amazon • Apple launched iBooks Author - a free tool for the production of enhanced ebooks and especially textbooks • Then in 2013 the growth of ebooks preaches a plateau… although not everyone agrees on the robustness of the statistics • And in 2013 and 2014 two awards that may mean a lot for digital books proving themselves acclaimed amidst competition in the app market from tens of thousands of other apps. • Of course one could also mention even larger numbers of failing digital books… but that would be depressing By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  8. 8. Industry Classifications ❖ Publishers: ebooks, sometimes apps! ❖ Digital book awards: flowable vs. fixed layout ebooks and apps! ❖ Innovative digital books are hard to find in traditional publishers’ websites 8 • This is work in progress but current industry classifications that I came across - on publishers’ websites, digital publishing awards, and through an analysis of tens of articles by industry experts, are based mostly on platform of production and / or reading. • Publishers: most have an ebooks section, some also have apps • Digital book awards also distinguish between flowable vs. fixed layout ebooks and apps • For the most part, innovative digital books are hard to find in traditional publishers’ websites • Some new players dedicated exclusively to digital books, and aiming to create their own “shop fronts” • We will come back to the matter of classification, but for now I hope this has given you a flavour for the degree of diversity in digital publishing • For many in industry and academia these new forms have often been conceived of as a threat to publishing • This lead inevitably to a big question... By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  9. 9. The Future of the "Book" • What is the future of the book? By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  10. 10. –Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, A Companion to the History of the Book “… [T]he question of whether or not the book as we know it has a future is almost always the first and most pressing question asked.” 10 By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  11. 11. –Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose, A Companion to the History of the Book “Given the book’s adaptability and its ability to migrate from one material form to another, one might be inclined to be optimistic.” 11 • For someone coming from outside the field of History of the Book these two statements may sound slightly inconsistent. • On the one hand we are told the pressing questions is whether or not the book as we know it will survive • On the other hand, we are told that books are adaptable and change from one material form to another - changes in format frame and condition content, which in turn means that when new formats appear, their content - the way they’re written, the affordances of the new medium or material, the distribution channels, and so on - will necessarily vary, at least to a certain extent • If there’s one thing that History of the Book shows us is that books, writing, publishing and reading are not static - they evolve with cultural, social, economic and technological changes - in tandem • Expecting the book to persist “as we know it” seems to be equivalent to asking for time to stop and for books to remain forever crystallised in their current form - or rather, forms, since print or codex are wide umbrella labels for a multitude of formats… • Having said that, I believe - and also wish - print books will be around for a few more centuries! By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  12. 12. The Future(s) of the Book ❖ Unilinear path: one format is replaced by the next in consecutive fashion. 12 Image credits: José-Manuel Benitos, Creative Commons LINEAR EVOLUTION • Many analyses seem to conceive of change and innovation in book publishing formats and technologies as if these followed a unilinear path. In this angle, the commanding perception is that one format is replaced by the next in consecutive fashion. By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  13. 13. The Future(s) of the Book ❖ Branching paths: older and newer formats co-exist. 13 Image credits: Tony Hirst, BRANCHING EVOLUTION • It seems more fruitful to conceive of change and innovation in terms of branching paths, with older and newer formats co-existing • A branching model also helps conceiving of variation within a major format; the label “print”, for example, hides a huge amount of diversity of printed books By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  14. 14. All these are print books, just look at how different they are… By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  15. 15. The Future(s) of the Book ❖ Two hypotheses:! ❖ 1) Print books are not that dissimilar from digital books; perhaps bigger differences exist between some print formats than between certain print and digital forms! ❖ 2) Digital books explore the affordances of new technologies, but more often than not are inspired by established print genres, framed by their conventions, and often adaptations of existing books (e.g. an existing story; a print encyclopaedia’s database)! ❖ Which means there is both divergence and continuity between print and digital 15 • When we look at this matter of the future of the book in the light of a wealth of diversity, both in print and digital, two hypotheses can be drawn: • 1) Print books are not that always dissimilar to digital books; perhaps bigger differences exist between some print formats than between certain print and digital forms • 2) Digital books explore the affordances of new technologies, but more often than not they are also inspired by established print genres, framed by their conventions, and more often than not actually also adapt existing stories • I want to pick on ideas around both difference and continuity between print and digital to star sketching a typology of digital books which is also an alternative to existing industry classifications and seemingly a gap in academia to approach digital much beyond ebooks. By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  16. 16. Digital Books: Typology Sketches Any digital form of the “book” • This typology is just the start, and any feedback would be welcomed. • It is based on ongoing analysis of digital books started three years ago. I can tell you - there is a lot to analyse out there! By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  17. 17. 17 More book-like More multimodal and/or making use of affordances of digital media (e.g. user- generated content, interactivity, ludic features, cross-platform or cross-media / transmedia) Ebooks The Multimodality / Interactivity Angle Enhanced ebooks ePub3 “Multimedia ebooks” iBooks Author Story / Book Apps Game books Digital fiction “Bridging” Books Narrative games Social book • I will present two diagrams • This one is based on divergence from print, on the new modes and affordances allowed by digital media • The logic of the axis, and of the positioning of digital forms along it, is based on how far they have gone away from printed books, considering levels of both multimodality and of features such as interactivity closer to, and influenced by other media such as games • Starting on the left, I use ebooks to mean the simpler - and most remediated form - of digital book, which some in the industry are calling vanilla ebooks - or “normal” ebooks • We then have enhanced ebooks in ePub 3 format, which typically add images, videos or sound, but still follow the aesthetic form of the ebook • Then there’s “multimedia ebooks”, such as those made with iBooks Author, which still use pages and paragraphs, and other print conventions, but add digital features such as pop-up text, images with labels and zooming function, videos, images, slideshows, 3D objects, and “widgets” that allow programmers to add HTML5 bits of code, for example, to embed a website within the “book” (as these are “read” on tablets, the Internet connection allows such additions. • And towards the right there are other forms that start to merge more with other forms of media, and blurring the borderline between books (closer to the print traditions) and digital games, hypertext websites, or even social networking platforms (for example, Bob Stein’s Social Book allows users to comment on any bit of text or images, comment on comments, and thus turn the reading - or discussion of the content - into a social experience. • Bridging Books, developed by the Engage Lab (University of Minho, Guimaraes, Portugal) is an example of “hybrid media books” (their own term), by linking physical objects - in this case the book - to a digital device: as the pages of the print book are turned, the iPad shows content that continues, or expands the print page (e.g. an illustration is continued, with some animation; or a clock is spread between page and screen to teach children how to tell the time) • I am currently working on another shape of diagram, circular, that allows for a more efficient visualisation of - and thinking about - digital books at the convergence of print and other digital media forms. • With this diagram we can see how diverse this space is, and how far these new forms move away from the codex by exploring the affordances of the digital medium, often drawing on other types of digital texts • Let’s now look at the second diagram… By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  18. 18. 18 PRINT BOOKS DIGITAL The Remediation / Convergence Angle Children's Storybooks Novels Choose- your-own OTHER MEDIA! Games, Websites, AR Ebooks Storybook Apps Game-books Pop-up Books AR books! Wonderbook • This is just a simple illustration, but it hopefully makes the point… • If we take the diversity of formats in print as a starting point - and look for continuities rather than contrasts between older and newer forms of the print and digital books - we can think of a different way of classifying digital books • This takes into account the ways in which different kinds of digital books draw inspiration on print book genres and conventions • But also - especially the more interactive and multimodal kinds of digital books - also draw inspiration and conventions from other types of media, for example the interactivity of games or digital creativity apps • This results in the creation of texts that are to an extent hybrids between books and other forms of media, and which explore the affordances of the digital medium, • and specifically of devices such as tablets (although other platforms and technologies such as the Internet, AR, physical-to-digital objects, and others are also explored) • Some genres seem to be very suitable to digital, for example reference books… storybooks for children, picture books, books that portray other kinds of media • And there are less familiar kinds of new formats often characterised by media convergence and hybridity: digital fiction, Wonderbook with AR, the Bridging Books, game-books, Inkle’s Sorcey!, and so on… • Are these books? Some scholars and practitioners from other fields would probably claim them as their own, as texts to be produced by other creative industries and analysed by academics in other fields of study… Perhaps the wisest position is to avoid any fixed “borders”, and engage in multiple analyses an discussions of what are relatively new forms of media. By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  19. 19. –Independent publisher David Wilk,, 24.10.2013 “Publishers do not (yet) see a market for inventive digital publishing […] But what if the reason we have not seen any real success in innovative ebooks is not a lack of market, but something else altogether?” 19 • Now I’d like to focus on possible barriers to innovation, as suggested by the industry practitioner David Wilk By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  20. 20. –Independent publisher David Wilk,, 24.10.2013 “Publishers do not (yet) see a market for inventive digital publishing […] But what if the reason we have not seen any real success in innovative ebooks is not a lack of market, but something else altogether?” 20 • Innovation - in this case with the use of digital media for publishing purposes - is discussed in terms of the existence of a market opportunity, to be understood as a sufficient number of sufficiently interested readers (or should we call them users, of digital media; or even consumers, of digital products?) who result in a number of sales enough to cover any production expenses and hopefully still generate a profit. • But apparently there hasn’t been any “real” success in digital publishing - which means many publishers are still waiting to see when it happens - similarly to events in the CD-ROM era, it seems • Wilk also suggests other factors slowing down innovation… By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  21. 21. Barriers ❖ Fragmentation: discoverability issues, no easy way of finding digital books! ❖ Lack of promotion by Apple! ❖ Lack of investment by Amazon 21 • Fragmentation: there isn’s an easy way to find digital books; Amazon, some say, was indeed a life-saver for ebooks acting as a central marketplace • Lack of promotion by Apple - have the technology, the devices, the platforms - but don’t seem very interested in promoting digital books (although this seems to be changing slightly) - sell enough apps and games and devices • Lack of interest in technology by Amazon - busy with ebooks, did progress with Kindle enhanced ebooks (which look fairly poor compared to the ones I showed you), but could do more, for example through their Kindle Fire device, a true tablet that could support more innovative digital formats • And based on interviews I did with publishers: high costs, complexity, lack of in-house skills, and other factors we do not have time to cover By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  22. 22. The Future of the "Book" (And a future for the digital book?) • It seems that even the future of digital books is at stake… • But does it matter whether we have print books, or digital books, or game-book interactive apps? • At the end of the day, paper, tablets, binary digital codes, they are all materials, or resources that we humans can play with to create wonderful works… • Digital books are great at some things… print books are great at other things… as Gunther Kress proposes, rhetors (in communication, media included) choose from a range of available modes, multimodal arrangements, genres and media that they see as best apt to fulfil their goals… • [Reference: Kress, Gunther (2010). Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. New York: Routledge.] • Publishers, authors and digital producers are experimenting, getting used to new affordances, pushing boundaries and gaining skills… • And even without dedicated distribution services and big marketing budgets some digital books have reached ROI (return on investment) and have been praised by readers and (digital) critics alike By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  23. 23. The End • The potential of digital for storytelling is huge, but as Janet Murray suggests we're still waiting for a digital Shakespeare… • [Note: my interpretation of what Murray meant with ‘waiting for Shakespeare’ is that we are still to come across a digital work, a writer (an author, or perhaps a team of “producers”) that can receive widespread recognition. In my opinion, perhaps these authors already exist. It could be argued that some original works in the area of digital books, or digital fiction, are indeed of great quality, but persistent hierarchies of value attributed to different media, and an ongoing conception of digital “books” as opposed to print, and of digital in general as an intellectually-inferior medium, mean (together with a a myriad more factors) that the most experimental forms of writing are still for niche groups - they do not yet gain wide acclaim, or popularity, especially in literary realms] By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014
  24. 24. By the Book Conference, Florence, May 2014, Claudio Pires Franco The Digital Book (R)evolution UNESCO Chair Project! Crossing Media Boundaries: New Media Forms of the Book! (Prof Alexis Weedon) 24! @clauzdifranco! LinkedIn: Conference Programme! _programme_for_Publishing_Studies_conference_-_Florence_23_and_24_May_2014.pdf! By.the.Book.2014-Claudio.Franco-The.Digital.Book.(R)evolution - 6 June 2014