As a professor for book studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and and permanent visiting professor at the University of St. Gallen, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christoph Bläsi is teaching in the fields of digital publishing and book economy. His research covers among others semantic technologies, text and publishing structures, trend analysis of the book market and the effect of media convergence on the book. Recently, Christoph Bläsi has worked in particular on the (non-)interoperability of ebook formats and format standards as well as on the self-conception, the theories and methods of publishing studies.
Hybrid Publishing: The increasing supply and demand of e-books in the book industry results from new development in technology. How does this affect the way society perceives the cultural role or value of a book? And what challenges arise from this phenomenon for booksellers and publishers?
Christoph Bläsi: In the main segment of the e-book market, trade fiction, people tend to have a very pragmatic approach to the book as a medium anyhow, I therefore do not expect a further erosion of the awareness of the book as a medium there. The challenge of publishers, booksellers and their technology partners in other, evolving segments of the e-book market is it to try to transfer features valued in the print world to the digital medium: guaranteed long-term access, easy orientation, the chance to tell something about yourself by reading or owning a book, options to comment and annotate as well as to lend or to give as a present, etc. And at the same time make use of the specific new interactive and multimedia possibilies of digital books, of course – if this adds to the impressiveness of the “story”.
HP: What recent changes do you see in the economy of books regarding new developments in technology (and how do these changes affect the philosophy of books today?
Bläsi: To disperse the content formerly conveyed with the help of books into its basic propositions in the Semantic Web / Linked Open Data cloud I see as the most fundamental change ahead. Instead of consulting book a user will be able to ask the web questions with the help of software agents. It is obvious, however, that this is not the future of fiction, where I do not see as fundamental changes, apart maybe from integrating specific book functions (see above) in more comprehensive transmedia storytelling franchises.
HP: Are there any specific topics related to our conference topic of a “post-digital scholarship” you recently came across in your work in a way that surprised you?
Bläsi: Even more than by the – indeed meritorious – grassroot user-empowerment developments in academic publishing, especially in the humanities, I am fascinated by the complex offer by scientific publishers to support the whole research cycle from developing a proposal all the way to publishing the results (the former core business) and to archiving the research data. Some of this is still publishing – most of it is target group specific software and services, however. This I see at least as one future of publishing.
HP: Which book will you always have as an analogue copy in your bookshelf?
Bläsi: To be honest (for the time being): of almost all books I read as a private person, be they fiction or non-fiction.
Our next interview with Geert Lovink from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences will be published on monday!