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South Korea’s Digital Publishing Contents Platform

 

2018.06.28

 

In the digital age, books are no longer only in paper form but in all kinds of versions becoming evolved and expanded thanks to digital technology. When you take books only in paper form, it looks like the crisis of books is structurally inevitable, but when you combine them with all kinds of digital publications and digital publication content, a new publication market and reading culture have born anew. One thing that represents this change would be the platform services for publications. One characteristic of publishing platforms is that it brings together content goods that users, who have interest in a variety of categories, are expected to like and take an interest in. They fulfill the needs of many publishers and consumers at the same time. The platforms are managed by many different companies and entities, and this piece introduces two platforms that South Korean publishers currently manage directly.

 

One platform service geared towards children would be the Woongjin Book Club, operated by Woongjin Thinkbig(established in 1980) since 2015. Those who pay a monthly fee that ranges from 40,000 won to 159,000 won can enjoy a membership that provides everything books, educational lessons and other digital content. The available content can be enjoyed on tablet PCs. Educational lessons via the platform must be paid for by subject and teachers’ lessons are also provided along with learning material. As of end-April this year, the number of paying users on Woongjin Book Club stood at 380,000. Woongjin Thinkbig is originally known for learning material and educational books for children. The company faced management troubles in 2012 but succeeded in turning its business around by shifting its content to a digital platform.
Aside from tens of thousands of its original learning content, Woongjin Thinkbig has partnerships with more than 150 publishers inside and outside the country and provides more than 10,000 kinds of content to the Book Club. These partnerships were made in order to meet the demand of various readers. Also through curation services, roughly 200 kinds of reading topics are selected every week based on users’ age and themes to spark interest in reading. It’s a digital platform, but the company also stresses the importance of the link between the platform and paper books. The platform encourages children of this day and age who are accustomed to e-books, audio and video to take interest in paper books. Users can also use the platform’s reading album service to leave records of the books they read in writing, drawing or voice recording.

 

In the 1980s, when the need for democracy was strong under military rule in the country, South Korea was experiencing an age of poetry. There were some poetry collections that reached a million copies in sales and others that remained at the top of the bestseller list year-round. The people’s thirst for democracy and the need to live as humanly as possible were similar to the poems that rose in popularity. It was truly the heyday for poetry, one difficult to come by in the history of the world.
Now in South Korea where everyone carries around smartphones, poetry collections are known for their lack of popularity. In this situation, literature publisher Changbi(established in 1966) created an environment for poetry in a digital age. After three years of preparation, the company launched a poetry app called ‘Siyoil’. Fitting for a publisher that has released many poems for an extended period of time, the app has more than 35,000 poems written by some 320 poets. The poets include well-known writers as well as recently debuted poets. The monthly fee for the app is 5,000 won but users can pay half that amount if they pay for an entire year’s worth of services. As of the end of April this year, roughly 200,000 users have subscribed to Siyoil.
One of Siyoil’s strongest features is that functions difficult to have on paper, like recommendations, searches and multimedia content are available. The publisher is aiming to create an ‘open platform’ where everyone - the users and poets alike can live together by uploading poetry collections released by other publishers. Changbi is currently preparing POD(poetry on demand) services after having created a platform where users can read poetry as an everyday experience. Through this POD service, readers can create their own personalized collections of poetry and keep it for themselves or give them to others as presents. The number of readers may have declined dramatically, but Changbi has created a way for users to easily find themselves in the universe of poetry right in their hands. Now, smartphones are not the enemy of books but rather magical tools that are essential to bringing books closer to people.

 

 

Aside these two platforms, online novel platform BritG by Mineumsa, webtoon and web novel platform Justoon by Wisdom House are also examples of publishers’ aggressive attempts at entering South Korea’s entertainment web content market that has expanded swiftly.
Guaranteeing various content and access that can satisfy readers is important for platforms. Eventually, these platforms will all aim to provide tailored services for each and every user. For this, publishers need to closely cooperate to think from a reader’s point of view to draw them in and there is a need for friendly technology and marketing to be further developed.

 

 


Written by Baek Won-keun (President, Books & Society Research Institute)

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Baek Won-keun (President, Books & Society Research Institute)

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