《经济学人》:逐渐消失的印刷品
日期:2011-09-14 10:25

(单词翻译:单击)

The transformation of the book industry
出版业的转型

Disappearing ink
逐渐消失的印刷品

Readers have never had it so good. But publishers need to adapt better to the digital world
读者们体验着从未有过的快感,而出版商们则需要更好地适应数字时代

Sep 10th 2011 | from the print edition

DURING the next few weeks publishers will release a crush of books, pile them onto delivery lorries and fight to get them on the display tables at the front of bookshops in the run-up to Christmas. It is an impressive display of competitive commercial activity. It is also increasingly pointless.

在接下来的几周内,出版商们会发行一大批书,将它们堆在发货车上,然后竭尽全力赶在圣诞节购物狂潮来临之前将这些书摆在各个书店靠前的展台上。这种竞争激烈的商业活动给人以深刻的印象,然而这种做法也正逐渐失去它的意义。

More quickly than almost anyone predicted, e-books are emerging as a serious alternative to the paper kind. Amazon, comfortably the biggest e-book retailer, has lowered the price of its Kindle e-readers to the point where people do not fear to take them to the beach. In America, the most advanced market, about one-fifth of the largest publishers’ sales are of e-books. Newly released blockbusters may sell as many digital copies as paper ones. The proportion is growing quickly, not least because many bookshops are closing.

电子书正迅速地成为传统纸质书籍的替代品,比所有人预想的还要快。稳坐最大的电子书销售市场宝座的亚马逊公司将其Kindle阅读器的价格降到了人们将它带到沙滩上玩坏也不心疼的地步。在美国这个最发达的市场,那些最大的出版商约五分之一的销售额来自于电子书。新出版畅销书的电子版同纸质书一样卖得火热。电子书所占的比例在迅速地扩大,尤其是在如今许多书店都面临倒闭的时候。

For readers, this is splendid. Just as Amazon collapsed distance by bringing a huge range of books to out-of-the-way places, it is now collapsing time, by enabling readers to download books instantly. Moreover, anybody can now publish a book, through Amazon and a number of other services. Huge choice and low prices are helping books hold their own on digital devices, even against “Angry Birds”.

对于读者来说,这无疑是美妙的。正如亚马逊通过将大量的书送到偏远地区,缩小了人与书籍的空间距离一样,它也使人们能够迅速地从网上下载到电子书,从而缩短了时间。另外,人们现在也可以通过亚马逊和一些其它的服务出版自己的书。海量的选择和低廉的价格使电子书阅读器在电子设备的应用程序里具有很强的竞争力,它甚至能够与像“愤怒的小鸟”这样的游戏匹敌。

For publishers, though, it is a dangerous time (see article). Book publishing resembles the newspaper business in the late 1990s, or music in the early 2000s. Although revenues are fairly stable, and the traditional route is still the only way to launch a blockbuster, the climate is changing. Some of the publishers’ functions—packaging books and promoting them to shops—are becoming obsolete. Algorithms and online recommendations threaten to replace them as arbiters of quality. The tide of self-published books threatens to swamp their products. As bookshops close, they lose a crucial showcase. And they face, as the record companies did, a near-monopoly controlling digital distribution: Amazon’s grip over the e-book market is much like Apple’s control of music downloads.

然而对于出版商而言,这却是一个充满危机的年代。出版业所面临的困境和上世纪90年代的报业以及21世纪初的音乐产业很相似。尽管出版业的年利润很稳定,而且传统的纸质发行方式仍然是出版畅销书的唯一途径,但时代变了。出版商的一些职能,如打包书籍并推销到各个书店等,正在被淘汰。计算机算法和网络上的推荐正替代那些做法,成为评判图书质量的权威参考。自己出版图书的浪潮也会使出版商的书籍陷入困境。而书店的倒闭也使他们失去了一种至关重要的销售媒介。另外,他们也像唱片公司一样面对一个几近垄断、具有控制力的电子书发行市场:就像苹果公司控制了音乐下载市场一样,亚马逊掌控着电子书市场。

A new chapter
一个新篇章

Yet there are still two important jobs for publishers. They act as the venture capitalists of the words business, advancing money to authors of worthwhile books that might not be written otherwise. And they are editors, picking good books and improving them. So it would be good, not just for their shareholders but also for intellectual life, if they survived.

然而出版商仍然起着两种重要的作用。他们在出版业扮演着风险资本家的角色,给那些值得出版却又缺乏资金的图书的作者预付款。他们也起着编辑的作用,挑选并完善书籍。因此,如果他们能够存活下来,无论是对他们的股东还是对文化生活都是有好处的。

They are doing some things right. Having watched the record companies’ impotence after Apple wrested control of music-pricing from them, the publishers have managed to retain their ability to set prices. But they are missing some tricks. The music and film industries have started to bundle electronic with physical versions of their products—by, for instance, providing those who buy a DVD of a movie with a code to download it from the internet. Publishers, similarly, should bundle e-books with paper books.

有些方面出版商们做得还是不错的。在目睹了被苹果掌控音乐定价后唱片公司的衰落之后,出版商们成功地保住了价格的掌控权。但他们也忽略了一些技巧。音乐和电影产业将他们电子版和实物版的产品捆绑在了一起——比如,给购买电影DVD光盘的消费者提供可以免费从网上下载电子版的代码的方式。

They also need to become more efficient. Digital books can be distributed globally, but publishers persist in dividing the world into territories with separate editorial staffs. In the digital age it is daft to take months or even years to get a book to market. And if they are to distinguish their wares from self-published dross, they must get better at choosing books, honing ideas and polishing copy. If publishers are to hold readers’ attention they must tell a better story—and edit out all the spelling mistakes as well.

另外,出版商们也需要提高效率。如今电子书可以在全球范围内发行,而出版商仍坚持将世界划分为不同的地域,并由不同的编辑人员完成工作。在数字化时代,花几个月甚至几年的时间将书籍推向市场的做法是非常愚蠢的。此外,如果他们想将自己的商品与个人发行的糟粕区分开来,就要有更加敏锐的慧眼、独到的想法和精美的包装。如果出版商想吸引读者的眼球,他们就必须让书的内容更有趣——当然,还要在编辑时删掉所有的拼写错误。

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重点单词
  • editorialn. 社论 adj. 编辑的
  • competitiveadj. 竞争的,比赛的
  • threatenv. 威胁,恐吓
  • coden. 码,密码,法规,准则 vt. 把 ... 编码,制
  • deliveryn. 递送,交付,分娩
  • emergingvi. 浮现,(由某种状态)脱出,(事实)显现出来
  • pointlessadj. 不尖的,钝的,不得要领的
  • retainvt. 保持,保留; 记住
  • distinguishvt. 区别,辨认,使显著
  • crushv. 压碎,碾碎,压榨 n. 压碎,压榨,拥挤,迷恋