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Publication Industry’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic






Critique and composer Choi Jung-Woo said in his article “Era of Social Media: What is the Role of Humanities (The Kyunghyang Shinmun, December 18, 2012)” that Twitter and Facebook are referred to as bywords for modern “communication” but are never in the style of “dialogue,” and as such are paradoxically against the communicative function expected of them as “Social Networks.” He argued that Twitter is closer to laying out “testimonies” and that Facebook is more like an “exhibition” than being a platform for communication, and that with the two having more of a “monologue” characteristic, Social Media is having a negative impact on the development of humanities.
Seven years and four months later, in his article “Humanities in the era of Social Media: The Gaze of Signs Emerging with Intervention (Giheok Heoui Vol. 504, January 20th, 2020)”, he once again claimed that “Even though time has passed, things haven’t changed a bit – rather, they worsened. The virtual spaces we firmly believed will realize the most equal and democratic world we dreamed of have let us down, the ceaseless conversation of ‘mentions’ and ‘re-tweets’ carried out in some collective intelligence turned out to be a mere succession of fool jokes like an autistic monologue, and the continuity and expansion of relationships limitlessly established in the sea of open communication were actually just exchanges of meaningless ‘likes’ like a self-contained exhibition. These all came to the surface naked.”
He also criticized Instagram, the reflection of the static characteristic of our generation, and Youtube, the best example of the dynamic aspect of our generation. He added, “Monologue within the 140-character limit on Tweeter is now substituted with silence or emojis, and the common space for ‘exhibition’ maintained at the minimum level in a visual system where a few images take the center is replaced with a lopsided space of ‘exposure’.”
My idea was not that different from his. We once thought that “collective intelligence” or “multi-intelligence” could be made possible on Social Media. When rumors said that it would be the doom of paper books at the end of the 20th century, we hoped such nonsense would not take place. However, critic Choi Jung-Woo turned down the possibility saying that “the reality of anonymous collective intelligence that seemed to have equality was harsh. It contributed to the entrenchment of factional conviction that justifies unconditional belief as if it was like a religious fever.”
He also added, “Such last words or postscript of humanities for the era of Social Media are as follows: what we see is the genuine truth, and what is seen equals the entire world. Here, the reading skill that deciphers unseen things, upside down, and the assessment and criticism that interpret non-visible signs are the only meaning and significance of humanities in this world. Such humanities will be able to bring seemingly impossible salvation to the in and out of this world.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, doing nothing with this criticism could not be accepted. The world began to make new attempts, trying to clutch at straws. Desperately, people turned Uncontact (Publion) into a bestseller. Kim Yong-Sup, the writer of this book, said that “we need to understand that ‘uncontact’ is not for us to be severed and be isolated from each other, but was chosen as a trend for us to keep contacted.” He added that “human beings are a social animal that need each other to live and work together. Crossing the border of ‘contact’ and ‘uncontact’, we desire to live in a safer and more convenient connection.” In short, such desire did not pop up out of nowhere, but was a flow that has been growing and evolving over a long period, and this social trend was a predicted future.




From such perspective, it is a fact that COVID-19 that struck everyday lives of the global community is regarded as the ultimate “technology” that encouraged people to stop hesitating and start making new products with a smartphone using the 4th industrial revolution technologies such as A.I., big data, and IoT, spurring technological development. There will be many people who will feel unpleasant to hear referring to an infectious disease that took away the lives of innocent people as a “technology.” Still, if you could understand the inevitable reason behind the argument, you will be able to get a full grip of where this world is heading to.


People lost jobs, and almost all the cultural events were cancelled due to COVID-19, but publication was an exception.


So many people lost their job due to the pandemic. Temporary jobs and dayworkers were the most severely hit. The cultural market was not an exception. As people could not gather, almost all the cultural events were canceled, taking away the opportunity to experience running events. However, the publishing industry was safe. Many publishers could cope with the pandemic by carrying out most of their work from home. Furthermore, the online distribution channel was sturdy, and e-book sales soared. Many children’s book & teen book publishers enjoyed an uptrend in sales thanks to parents eagerly encouraging their kids to read books while staying at home. Also, as libraries were closed, people purchased books for themselves, raising the sales bar once again.
As the pandemic persisted, our daily life went through numerous changes as no-one could be free from social distancing. Organizations and people tried to make the best out of the hyper-connected society where things are connected by the Internet. In particular, all the schools, including colleges, had to begin the new semester online for the first time in history. Author Yuval Noah Harari said in a recent interview about the post-COVID-19 era that in the education sector, online and remote classes will become the “new normal”; this has begun to become a reality.
Literally, “everything” began to change. Schools began to respond faster to the situation. The next case was a real example that we are living in a hyper-connected society. In early 2020, a learning community of teachers was formed to talk about managing classes. A total of 11 teachers in the meeting began discussing the possibility of online classes. They mostly had less than 3 years of teaching experience, but they gathered to come up with a solution in case they had to conduct classes online. It was only a few months before the educational authority began mentioning the possibility of online schools.
They learned about how to share documents, run an online survey, make and edit videos, and conduct video conferences that could be the basic things when having classes online. They also trained using an online learning platform as the last step. Even though they went through numerous challenges as everything was new to them, but thanks to the early preparation, they could lead the stabilization of online classes as a lead-teacher in their schools when the authority ordered schools to open classes online.
It was sheer luck. The teachers decided to write a book about their experience. So they logged into Cloud, held numerous discussions, and began to complete the manuscript. The first step was listening to what other teachers had to say about online classes. So they conducted a survey of about 40,000 teachers across the country. And based on the data collected filled with lively response from teachers mixed with hope, worries, concerns, and anticipation, they began to write the book together.


The writers met at least twice a week, discussing and sharing feedback to what each other had written; everything was done online through Cloud and video conferences. The book, which definitely will be a great support for teachers, students, and parents in the post COVID-19 era as public education continues to change. It will also give courage and power to fellow teachers having trouble with unprecedented online classes It is set to be published in early July this year.
This case also implied another opening for the publication market. Until today, we’ve gathered opinions via a group chat on Kakaotalk whenever there was something that required discussion. Writing a book through Cloud could be a good expansion of such a system. From now on, editors will not just look for elite writers. In this rapidly changing world, there is a limit to how much a person can do. No matter how outstanding an educational scholar might be, he/she cannot complete a book on online classes immediately. Teachers that meet students on the ground can gather up collective intelligence and finish such a book in an instant. Also, perhaps younger teachers would be more capable of having proper ideas in the new era. This case, where collective intelligence based on the Cloud, will be an exemplary case for opening a new chapter in the publishing industry.
Schools will begin having offline classes soon. However, the online connection between the teacher and students will not be cut off. Multiple things that cannot be done offline will be carried out online instead. Ultimately, schools may disappear in the future. Creative adventurers are already preparing for numerous businesses targeting remote education or remote meetings. So, a contact-less world has already become our daily life.


Frame Revolution: Post COVID-19, a Shift Towards a People-Centered Economy


In his book Frame Revolution: Post COVID-19, a Shift Towards a People-Centered Economy (Book by Book), writer Park Se-Gil claimed that “In this ever-complex world, it is difficult to expect a new ideology to set in depending on a certain ideology like in the past. This is the era of collective intelligence (or multi-intelligence). Content is created and developed through collective intelligence from Linux to Wikipedia and Youtube.”
He then added that “The universalization of college education has led to higher average intelligence, and the technological environment for collective intelligence improved rapidly based on the Internet. The human brain keeps the body conscious with the communication of neurons. Collective Intelligence is a social ritual formed through interactive communication based on individuals’ networks. It is like ‘socialization of the human brain.’ The new ideology that will open the new era could be formed with such collective intelligence.” Park thinks highly of the potential that Social Media-based collective intelligence has.


The publication market rapidly began to learn how to survive after the outbreak of the pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ins and outs of our life. Many people say that the world would never be able to go back to the pre-COVID-19 days. In fact, it would be regressive to go back to the past while we have discovered a new way of living and new jobs with infinite potential. Books are the source of all content. The publishing industry will try out new adventures. Using collective intelligence from planning to execution as a default option.
All channels were mobilized in carrying out remote classes. Publication has in an inseparable relationship with education. In particular, study materials or children’s books will change the fastest. Trans (cross)-media strategy will be strongly supported. For example, as large bookstores have already experienced the skyrocketing sales of once-sluggish e-books and audiobooks after the outbreak of the pandemic, they are re-engineering the production and distribution system of digital content. From now on, more people will shift in between their reading method; they will read paper books indoors, listen to audiobooks when traveling, and return to paper books again on arrival. Just like kids listen to the radio, people will more likely be listening to audiobooks, and just like watching movies or animations, readers will get more access to picture books made as a video. The publication market is setting up plans for this possible scenario.
Marketing is growing contact-less as well. Online book meetings are held by libraries, lectures of authors are delivered online, and promotional videos including book trailers are growing in number. Publishers began to recruit video specialists or encourage editors to cultivate their sense in videos. As such, the publication market has begun to acquire knowledge on how to survive in the post-COVID-19 era. If publishers could well utilize this system where collective intelligence could be manifested in its full potential, they will be able to open a new world of possibilities. These possibilities were there from the beginning, however. It is just that the pandemic has removed the shadow, bringing them up to the surface.



Written by Han Ki-Ho (Head of the Korean Publishing Marketing Research Institute)


Han Ki-Ho (Head of the Korean Publishing Marketing Research Institute)

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