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  • Writer's pictureNoni Harrison

The impacts of trends in digital publishing 

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

Trends in digital publishing undoubtedly have an impact on school libraries and their collections in terms of the access and acquisition of resources. Changes in the digital landscape have driven changes to traditional modes of reading and accessing materials and how those materials are marketed to consumers. Shatzkin specifically points out these changes over time; evolving from the power of a vast and plentiful selection in physical book stores to the power of increased access to once out of stock books now available online; almost as if a secret club or entry into a world once inaccessible, which is an enticing proposition to many (2016). Shatzkin was referring to the rise of Amazon and the collapse of Boarders, which had a long lasting impact on the way in which books are distributed (2016). Books, both physical and digital, can now be acquired through a vast array of algorithms and new influences and influencers. Not only do the “Four Horsemen” (Galloway, 2015) drive online sales, so do modern influencers on social media such as Instagram and Twitter. An example of the power of an online influencer, though not related to books, is the reported loss of $1.3 billion dollars suffered by Snapchat in response to a tweet from  Kylie Jenner showing her ambivalence toward the app’s update (Shen, 2018). While other factors may also have been at play here, it does highlight the power of online profiles in the consumption of products. This, too, has an impact on the way school libraries identify and select resources, as library users may be desiring a particular resource due to an online review, recommendation and/or hype. 

Algorithms and Search Engine Optimization also influence how school libraries identify, select and acquire resources, as they dictate or skew what is found when searching online and online marketing influences decide where and how the resources are purchased (Shatzkin, 2015). With the increase of self-publishing and digital publishing, the “digital advantage” publishers and authors once saw (as Shatzkin alluded to with the birth of Amazon [2016]) is diminishing as the market is crowded (Ruscello, 2017). This can make collection development for school libraries arduous, as locating the most effective resources to support teaching and learning needs requires more sifting than before. On the other hand, the “Four Horsemen” (Galloway, 2015) have intentional marketing strategies to direct consumers to specific resources, which narrow search results. Google’s algorithm updates have consistently responded to consumer satisfaction; thus, the updates have optimised the consumer search experience by increasing the quality of the search results and introducing search entities, which auto-fill search terms and direct users down a variety of digital paths (Carson, 2016). Additionally, the online presence of authors and their profiles does influence the occurrence of their books in search results (Shatzkin, 2016). Ultimately, libraries are at the mercy of budgets; therefore, price point will impact the selection of certain resources. As Shatzkin explains, where a consumer buys a product is not necessarily where they made the decision to buy it; something he refers to as “the fallacy of last click attribution” (2016, para. 21). The ability to easily compare prices online using search engines such as Google, perhaps allows libraries to acquire more resources at a cheaper, more competitive price than before.

A variety of technological trends can affect school libraries and their collections. Libraries need to respond to the reading and research preferences of their clientele. Staff and students want easily accessible, reading level appropriate material to meet their teaching and learning needs. In this sense, libraries are able to strike a balance between material presented digitally and material presented in hard copy form. Thus far, it can be seen that the trends presented by Shatzkin (2015 and 2016) may have a positive influence over resourcing these needs but increased access to resources also requires caution in identifying and selecting effectives resources. The digital landscape requires careful evaluation of resources to sift through the plethora of options to find what is most useful in meeting the needs of library users. Overall, online reviews, heightened use of algorithms and competitive prices change how users source products (both digital and physical) and impact how library collections are developed at the identification, selection and acquisition levels; therefore, evaluation of resources is paramount.


Carson, J. (2016, February 4). SEO and psychology: The behavior of the online consumer. The Make Good. Retrieved from

Galloway, S. [DLDconference]. (2015, January 20). The four horsemen: Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google – who wins/loses (Scott Galloway, L2 Inc.)|DLD15 [Video file]. Retrieved from 

Ruscello, J. (2017, December 22). 15 self-publishing trends to watch in 2018 [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Shatzkin, M. (2016). Book publishing lives in an environment shaped by larger forces and always has. The Shatzkin Files. Retrieved from

Shatzkin, M. (2015). Big focus at DBW 2016 on the tech companies that are shaping the world the book business has to live in. The Shatzkin Files. Retrieved from

Shen, L. (2018, February 22). Why Kylie Jenner may be to blame for Snap’s recent $1 billion loss in value. Fortune. Retrieved from 

[Forum Reflection: Module 1.1]

#algorithm #collectionmanagement #ELT503

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