Gutenberg was also a bookseller


It seems clear that consumers may want different formats: a library may desire a sewn hardback that will last centuries; a traveller may want a read-once papeback that fits in a handbag; an older reader may desire larger print. A student may want not whole books but the must-read chapters for his course. All these point to production on demand for books, either by ordering online or by finding bookshops that have printing machines as well. So there will be fewer, larger physical bookstores, and workers in said stores will need to work with publishing software.

This comes with a risk that copyright owners fail to get paid so shop managers and production people will need to be conscious of security as well.

Gutenberg would recognise a world where books are personalised, expensive and made to order, but he would be surprised that there is also the cheap alternative of buying the e-version.

Amazon has recently linked a cut price offer for an ebook to a previous physical purchase – the deal could work the other way also: taste the e-book, then buy physical. But having a history of customer purchasing is a huge advantage in making the link. How copyright owners can verify against abuse is not so clear!