Are Phones More Important than E-Readers to the Future of Publishing?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In today’s headline story Hannah Johnson reports back from this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain where a variety of new devices and display technologies were introduced. For publishers in the United States, the focus for the future of e-reading has been primarily on the larger format, dedicated e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. In much of the rest of the world, where dedicated devices have been slow to come to market, the focus is on the mobile phone.

The question is: Are phones, in the long run, more important than e-readers to the future of global book publishing? I would argue yes, especially when one considers price. In highly populated growth markets, such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and much of Africa, a dedicated e-reader will remain a very pricey luxury for the foreseeable future; in the meantime, the cheap cell phone and the low-cost, high-speed internet access that comes with it will become nearly universal. If a publisher want to reach readers — especially a new generation of readers — they will have to start there. The cell phone will be the gateway device, something many may very well own long before they even have a modest collection of “books,” whether real or digital.

Ultimately, this economically-motivated preference for the smaller screen of the phone may influence the very nature of books that are available. Will the Japanese-style cell phone “novel” become the universal wave of the future?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.