“Book publishing industry on the verge of a revolution”

Source: De Tijd (11/05/2017); Author: Barbara Moens

The book publishing industry is on the verge of a revolution, according to Soraya Belghazi. “If it continues to rest on its laurels and view the traditional paper book as its main source of income, it will be the death knell of this industry. In the United States, one third of all e-book sales on Amazon are already generated by self-published books. And Belgium will be no different in the long term.”

If traditional book publishers want to survive, Belghazi thinks they need to change their approach to literature. “Publishers are always complaining that young people no longer read books. But they are wrong. Millennials still enjoy a good story but their expectations are much higher. So you need to cater to their wishes.”

“Book publishers complain that young people no longer read. But they are wrong.” Soraya Belghazi

Soraya BelghaziShe points to the example of Wattpad, which describes itself as “the world’s largest community for readers and writers”. “Wattpad is an online community where readers supplement their favourite story and can engage with each other. They now have 45 million users worldwide, half of which are millennials.”

Virtual reality

Belghazi quit her job in the finance industry to develop her idea. “I want to create a new way of experiencing a story in the world of historical fiction, combining reading material, audio, video and even virtual reality. Users can be introduced to the story interactively and can even contribute to it themselves. Some great things have already come out of fan fiction.”

Wikipedia

She admits that she still needs to develop her idea. She hopes to work with the traditional book publishers for this but she feels that the industry does not have that much interest in presenting stories this way. “And yet there are so many opportunities for enriching the reading experience. Why not organise a chat with the author about the research or add historical sources? You can even create a Wikipedia-like format where readers can add information about their favourite characters and so on.”

“Digitisation allows you to take an idea and work with it without excessive start-up costs.” Soraya Belghazi

She says the Take the Lead programme, which Vlerick Business School is organising with De Tijd and L'Echo, gave her the courage to take the next step. “Of course, you have your doubts. But the programme demonstrated that digitisation allows you to work with an idea without an excessive start-up cost. Once I find the right partner, I’m ready to move forward and develop this!”

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