Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Lifecycle of an Ebook: What Comes Next

Lifecycle of a Book has proved a perennial favorite these past few months, and we love how it’s been so many things to so many people (much like a good book, eh?).

Just imagine my delight when I ran across this in the Publishing Trends archives several months ago: a Lifecycle for the Trends crowd from the BEA 2007 edition, demonstrating what Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) could reveal about where books go on their travels to–and amongst–consumers. Oh-so cutting-edge.

Lifecycle of a Book as Recorded in 2007

It’s obviously a “bigger picture” Lifecycle, focused on what happens after Publishing Day. But it’s got another useful contrast. Think about the new and very different lifecycle rising to prominence none too slowly beside this one: Lifecycle of an Ebook. One of the hugest changes from the Lifecycle pictured here is the subtraction of “touches.” I don’t often hear it articulated that way, but just look at the intricate web of touches down in that “used book” corner. Where do those go in the ebook world? And the warehouse?

None of these questions are meant to be alarmist, because just as interesting as these questions is surely this one: what non-physical “touches” are unique to the life of an ebook? How much do you know about the tasks and challenges of the┬ápeople who make sure ebooks get to us looking more like books than alphabet soup? What about the indie e-sellers carving a niche for themselves in Amazon‘s (seemingly) almighty shadow? Even if you’ve only been in the business 2 or 3 years, you’ve probably seen a shift in your own workday to accomodate this new Lifecycle. All important questions to touch on. (No but seriously).


  1. After reading this, I looked back at the original life cycle figure, which made me realize I wished that “design” were connected directly to “digital”–both in the diagram and in the real-life workflow! The more important digital books become, and the more crucial it is to get them out right along with the print versions, the more disruptive it is to have the design too tied to the print edition. Having gotten into working with ebooks on the production side, I’ve realized more and more how many design elements translate well to paper and terribly across ebook conversion. I think some houses may be doing this already–not sure–but it seems that the best solution would be to have two parallel designs all along, rather than designing a print book and then shoving it into a digital format. This would save hassle at the end for the production crew and also give the editor the chance to contribute input on the design of the ebook along with the design of the print. (This obviously applies more to designed books–like, for example, the many cookbooks and practical books we publish–than to narrative/fictional ones, but it’s possible that even in those books there are tweaks to design that could make the digital reading experience better.)

  2. Amen and amen. Sometimes I wonder how much “bester” so many “best practices” of the publishing workflow could get after just a few in-depth conversations with Production Assistants hard at work in houses big and small right now.

    Directly to your point, (and from a different, non-book arm of publishing), this is well-worth a read:

  3. Abdur says:

    I think within next 2-3 years e-books will totally take over the market.

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