Around the world, newspapers, books and manga face similar predicaments: even as they serve wider communities than ever before they must confront business challenges that threaten their survivals.

Imagine a world without media – a place where written text, photographs, sound recordings, video and film all lie out of reach. You may think that, in 2017, there is no such vicinity. But think again.

The world of media and particularly digital media may seem to you and me as omnipresent as air. But millions across the globe live shut out from it. Some cannot see. Many have learning and developmental challenges. Addressing these and other barriers to information access is often considered too costly or too difficult, either by governments or by technology companies.

Palo Alto-based Benetech is a nonprofit with a single focus on developing technology for social good. Benetech’s global literary program builds tools that makes it possible for people with limited accessibility to reach the information they need to change and improve their lives. “We run the world’s largest library for people who have difficulties reading traditional print. People who are blind. People who have a mobility impairment that keeps them from turning the pages of a book or holding a book. Eeven people with dyslexia that affects their ability to read print,” explains Brad Turner.

For the book publishing industry, the 20th century was arguably the era of the paperback format. Inexpensive printing, rising literacy and a global mass media helped to put more books in more hands than ever before. The medium may be the message, but the paperback format was the business model.

In 2017, print remains a critical element of the book business, yet attention from editors and executives – and authors too – focuses on digital. The annual Global E-book Report, an ongoing project from Vienna-based publishing consultant Ruediger Wischenbart, filters through conflicting story lines to better understand the current fortunes of the new century’s fundamental format. As Wischenbart views the market in North America and elsewhere, success has followed when content creators build communities of readers. In this publishing revolution, the battles are largely fought by author.

Scanlation is a species of copyright infringement native to the manga world that has shaped the business for better and for worse over more than three decades. Combining scanning and translation, scanlation is a fan-created translation of manga that first brought the form beyond the island of Japan in the 1970s. Then, in the early years of the 21st century, scanlations nearly destroyed the business. In October, Kae Winters of Tokyopop spoke about the industry effects of scanlation at the annual International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations conference in Tokyo in October. She shared the story with Beyond the Book when she returned stateside.

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