The speed of technological development at the beginning of the 21st century has outpaced our human ability to absorb the change. We have landed in a new world and have barely begun to explore it.

Among the lasting catchphrases of 2017 is “fake news.” The News Media Alliance, a Washington-based trade organization representing nearly 2,000 North American news organizations, works to sustain news-gathering operations and the communities that rely on professional news for reliable information. Paul Boyle, senior vice president, public policy for NMA, manages the group’s legislative and regulatory affairs. He told CCC’s Chris Kenneally this spring that the fight over “fake news” will be a long-term struggle – one as much about business models as about reliable sources.

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the trade book publishing market. Early in 2017, OverDrive, a leading provider of digital publishing to public libraries, reported a 34% rise in 2016 audiobook borrowing numbers over 2015. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was the most popular title.

To accommodate consumer and reader demand, audiobook production has flourished;, the listening service owned by Amazon, has taken a dominant market share. The US-based Audio Publishers Association says available titles grew from about 7,000 in 2011 to more than 35,000 in 2015. “It’s just an exciting time to be in our industry, because so many more people are listening and so many more books are being published,” says Michele Cobb, APA’s executive director. “I think that’s really what is helping to drive the growth. More people have more books available to them. They realize that audio is out there. They try it. And then they are excited to listen to something else.”

Smartphones, and the proliferation of apps for podcasting and other audio programming, have played a major role in the rise of audiobooks. Remarkably it is only a decade since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in January 2007. At the time, Jobs boasted that his company, Apple, intended nothing less than to reinvent the phone. Today, that boast is an accomplishment.

Like any technology environment, the smartphone world has rules – rules that publishers must learn, says Maxwell Riggsbee, chief product officer at Gadget Software, a mobile publishing platform developer. The new reading that is coming to dominate our media world, Riggsbee says, must be complemented by a new kind of publishing that helps readers discover information in a blizzard of data.

Audiobook Covers
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