The future of books

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Team Composition


Paper books and e-reader

Our society is more and more shifting toward a knowledge based, information at hand, digital age. With this trend it is hard to say how books will fit into this new way of living. On the one hand they have been our primary source of information and entertainment for a very long time, but on the other hand the concept is heavily outdated and doesn't really fit anymore with our digital society. Alternatives for books are being developed and introduced; they are providing a digital evolution of the old fashion book: the e-book and e-reader. For publishers it is vital to know what will happen in this multi billion dollar industry, how will the future of books look? And how do publishers have to prepare for this?

Research Questions

General book and e-book

  1. In what kind of categories can we split different kind of books?
  2. What is pleasant and unpleasant about reading a paper book?
  3. What is pleasant and unpleasant about reading on a e-book reader?
  4. What is pleasant and unpleasant about reading on a laptop?
  5. What is the typical weight of an e-book reader?
  6. What are current limitation of e-book readers?
  7. What is the refresh rate of black and white e-book readers?
  8. What is the refresh rate of the colored e-book readers?
  9. Will refresh rate of e-book readers improve in the future?
  10. What is the maximum resolution of current e-book readers?


  1. How many paper books are sold each year?
  2. How many e-book readers have been sold so far?
  3. How many audio books are being sold each year?
  4. To what users would e-books provide a serious advantage over paper books?


  1. What is the price of printing a book out of the total costs?
  2. What is the current trend in price of paper?
  3. Will the price of paper go up in the future?
  4. Are there physical alternative to paper books?


  1. In what amount are printed books available in non-native languages?
  2. What percent of the market is the industry loosing because of non-native speakers (in the US)?
  3. Would on demand printing of translated ebooks satisfy this non-native speaking market segment?


  1. What is the main source of revenue for writers?
  2. Breakdown of sales of different book types
  3. How are freely available ebooks financed?
  4. Breakdown of publishing costs

Digitizing of books

  1. What companies are digitizing books?
  2. Are all new books printed already digitized?
  3. What is the percentage of old books that has already been digitized?
  4. How much does it cost to have a book digitized?
  5. At what rate is the digitizing of old books happening?
  6. How many books that are in the public domain are already digitized?
  7. What is the size (in megabytes) of a typical ebook?
  8. How much data-storage will be needed to store every book in the world?
  9. What is the number of new digitized books per year?

Distribution of books

  1. What are the current major companies/sources that offer free ebooks?
  2. What are the current major companies that offer paid ebooks?
  3. What is the price for a standard ebook? (and how does that compare to a normal book)
  4. How much does it cost to distribute ebooks over the web? (bandwidth, server costs)
  5. How are ebooks distributed?
  6. How is access to certain 'sensitive' books regulated?
  7. How is 'renting' of ebooks from libraries handled?
  8. What are alternative ways to get (e)books to the customer?

Format of ebooks

  1. In what file-format will books be distributed now (in the future)?
  2. What are the alternatives to ebooks?
  3. What are the options to read digital books?
  4. What are future possibilities of ebooks, will they for example incorporate sound or video?

Copyright of digital books

  1. Who holds the copyright to books? Writers? Illustrators? Publishers?
  2. What are current copyright laws on books?
  3. How is copyright handled on current ebooks?
  4. What limitation imposes copyright on ebooks?
  5. Are there any open-source books?
  6. What is creative commons?
  7. To what limit can people read copyrighted books without buying them?
  8. Does piracy of books pose a significant threat to the industry?

Environmental impact of e-books and printed books

  1. What is the number of trees cut annually for the paper books industry?
  2. How is book printing affecting the environment?
  3. What is the quantity of CO2 emitted to print one book?
  4. Are e-books an environmental choice over books?

Systems Diagram

Systems diagram

The systems diagram is a great way of seeing how related elements effect books in general. In this diagram we have colored main players orange, while forces that influence these players are colored blue.

Driving Forces

Economical factors

  1. Global economy
  2. Cost of digital book compared to normal book
  3. Fast global distribution
  4. Difficulty of having a book published and distributed
  5. Lower cost of datastorage & bandwidth

Social factors

  1. Public's reaction
  2. Demographic changes
  3. Changes in mainstream entertainment
  4. Emotional experience of tangible objects

Technological factors

  1. Invention of digital ink and paper
  2. The availability of Internet bandwidth
  3. Research and development in the book and ebook industries
  4. Increase in reachability of potential customers
  5. Increase in number of people connected to internet
  6. Increased usage/penetration of digital portable devices

Environmental factors

  1. CO2 emmision restriction
  2. Logging restrictions and deforestation

Copyright and DRM

  1. Piracy
  2. Changes in the copyright laws
  3. The security of digital right management


The scenarios
Scenario Tree

These are the four scenarios we came up with. Included are two diagrams that indicate our train of thought when trying to come to these scenarios. Each scenario consist of a story that tell about how the future looks in 2020 regarding the book industry. Following that comes a section that gives all background information, illustrating in detail how this future came to be.

  1. E-Ink leaves its mark
  2. Paper shall thrive
  3. New ways of story-telling
  4. Book? What is that?