Publishing is changing because of digital technologies. Does this herald a renaissance for the industry? What threats and opportunities does digital publishing bring? Most notable of the changes it has made possible are new attitudes to consumers, communities, content, and collaboration. Digital publishing enables publishers to get closer to the consumers of their products, as the growing interest in niche publishing illustrates. Digital publishing allows publishers to cultivate consumer communities based on a better understanding of consumers’ interests, on which publishers can build consumer loyalty and trust. Digital publishing lets publishers maximize the value of the content they own and leverage this with digital techniques for content discoverability and marketing. Digital publishing also makes creative collaboration easier. This combination of things challenges conventions and suggests a new publishing model, based on facilitating a dynamic publishing ecosystem.
There are four practical consequences for digital publishers: coordination is essential for making the most of this new publishing ecosystem; cultivation and curation of content and of content-creators are more important than ever; communication—information-sharing—gives the ecosystem vitality; and the convergence of different media increases diversity and dynamism. Some publishers can be seen to be working more innovatively, costeffectively, and productively in the digital environment, while not losing touch with their time-honoured skills. The model of an information ecosystem illustrates how the consumer-community marketplace works. Digital marketing also operates within this information ecosystem.
In practice, there are four things digital publishers can concentrate on: using converging media, encouraging consumers to communicate, listening to consumers and cultivating the content they’re interested in, and coordinating creative collaboration among all involved. Of these, creative collaboration may prove to be the most important. In sum, despite predictions of gloom, the indications are that the impact of digital publishing is taking the industry to the dawn of a renaissance.
An anthropological view of the publishing industry sees it as a culture with its own assumptions and patterns, in which publishing companies are macro-communities associated with micro-communities of readers. Anthropology sees ‘digital culture’ in a comparable way. Awareness of the cultural characteristics of publishing as a culture and of digital culture can turn their differences into synergies that benefit both. Examples from anthropological research and from publishing show that some processes are comparable. One is the process in which material value is transformed into cultural value, with the benefit of increasing the cohesion of a community. Another occurs when communities interlink their cultural processes in cultural–commercial ecosystems, to mutual benefit. Anthropological insights suggest how strategies, at project level and at the level of international cooperation, can bridge the cultural divide between traditional publishing values and digital opportunities and so help businesses survive and succeed in times of change.