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date: 06 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The present era of publishing is marked by unusually intense transformations, driven by technological change and the digital revolution. Trying to understand the future of publishing is an important strategic question for all stakeholders, but it remains difficult: the track record of accurate prediction is poor. Another way to think about the future is via thought experiments. This chapter expounds eight possible experiments for thinking through change in publishing, including looking at what would happen if brand authors self-published; artificial intelligence superseded authorial functions; and books started to disappear from day-to-day life. It considers automated translation, online only bookselling, and all publishing and reading becoming pure service with no residual ‘product’. Lastly, it thinks through what would happen if ebooks were free but print was five times the price. None of these thought experiments are claimed as predictions; in thinking about them, we hope to gain a better appreciation of some possible fault lines in the future of publishing.

Keywords: Thought experiment, future publishing, digital technology, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, retail, bookselling, book, ebook,, self-publishing

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