In the face of rapidly changing reading habits what does the future hold for printed books? Will they still be around in ten years? And if so, how might they be made?
Our publishing initiative, the Book Chain Project, helps publishers to better understand how, where and from what their books are made. It’s been ten years since the first part of the Project began by gathering data on the tree species used in paper. We wrote this report to reflect on that past decade, to better understand our current reading habits, and finally to gaze into the crystal ball to see what books of the future might look like, and how and where they might be made.
Based on current trends we’ve identified four underlying stories of the book:
- Digital print: New printing technology is significantly affecting how books are made. It’s allowing print-on-demand, local production, and personalised content, and allowing publishers to revive their archived titles, and take opportunities to trial new authors.
- Digital conversion: In some cases digital clearly offers benefits over print when we look at connectivity and interactivity. Where the changes are happening, they’re happening quickly.
- Digital interaction: Print and digital can complement one another in blended approaches where digital interactivity can help to bring print to life.
- Digital distraction: In our desire to avoid digital overload from the ever-present screens and devices in our lives, are books one of our last remaining bastions of escapism?
We go on to predict three possible futures for the book and ultimately what this means for our future work on the Book Chain Project.
The report’s findings are informed by our desk research, in-depth interviews with the Project’s publishers, and guest presentations from our 2016 seminars in London and New York.
Since March 2013 businesses across Europe have been responding to the EU Timber Regulation; a law prohibiting illegal timber from appearing on the European market. We wanted to gauge the feeling across the retail and manufacturing sectors so, eight months on from the law’s introduction, we conducted a short survey to understand how companies were facing the new requirements. We presented the findings to the Chatham House Illegal Logging Update in February 2014. The results are summarised in our report Still Feeling Stumped?