Who is to Blame for Slow E-Book Adoption in the UK?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


Today’s lead story by Liz Bury documents a recent meeting of the of the digital directors group of the UK Publishers Association. It’s clear from the comments of many present that more has to be done — and fast. The UK has lagged behind the US and, I would argue, Germany in e-book adoption, be it devices coming to market or publishers making titles available.

What’s surprising is that while France, Spain and others still debate the way to go forward with e-books as the rest of the world moves forward, the UK is right there with them. Traditionally, the UK would be more closely aligned with the US than the continent, at least in terms of publishing — particularly when the countries share the same language and many of the same corporate bosses.

All this leads me to wonder if it’s not evidence of some kind of corporate dysfunction that the UK publishers have not been faster to push e-books (YES, there are notable exceptions). Certainly there have been times when UK companies have had very innovative projects online (Penguin Dating, anyone?) but online and e-books are notably different.

Some may cite the lack of devices that have come to market. But surely there are companies working on homegrown readers. Didn’t PlasticLogic originate in Cambridge.

I wonder if, to some extent, the slow adoption of e-books in the UK doesn’t fall somewhere at the feet of the publishers themselves. Should there have been some transfer of technology and expertise among these multinational companies — Pearson, HarperCollins — that have large footprints on both sides of the English-speaking Atlantic? Is this yet another example of lack of communication and, ultimately, dysfunction?

Who is to blame?

Let us know what you think 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.