How is the growing use of e-books chaining academia and the publishing industry?

In the world of books, “the times they are a-changin'”, as Bob Dylan told us. And if bookshops and publishers are going through intense upheaval, this must affect the most compulsive producers and consumers of the written word – academics.

In what economists might call the “value chain” of reading, there are four distinct stages, all of them changing in unnerving but interesting ways. Of course, the process starts with the author, combining two substages, research and then writing; then comes publication which, for both journal articles and books, has historically involved commercial publishers or university presses. Then for books, if not journals, there are the booksellers, the only link in the chain to communicate directly with readers. (Libraries remain an important part of the ecosystem for academic and scholarly works but sadly no longer for general books and lay readers.)

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