To understand how the closed nature of digital book ecosystems hurts designers and readers, it’s useful to look at how the open nature of print ecosystems stimulates us. ‘Open’ means that publishers and designers are bound to no single option at most steps of the production process. Nobody owns any single piece of a ‘book’. For example, a basic physical book stack might include TextEdit for writing; InDesign for layout; OpenType for fonts; the printers; the paper‑makers; the distribution centres; and, finally, the bookstores that stock and sell the hardcopy books.
Thanks to desktop publishing software, print‑on‑demand, and even Amazon (for distribution), the production sequence of the physical book stack has become almost universally accessible. This represents one of the most significant shifts in publishing over the past 20 years. Today, any individual or independent publisher can create a physical book of almost any conceivable design and distribute it globally. This combination of accessibility and openness gives designers great latitude in typography, binding materials and papers. […]
Designers working within [the digital] closed ecosystem are, most critically, limited in typographic and layout options. Amazon and Apple are the paper‑makers, the typographers, the printers, the binders and the distributors: if they don’t make a style of paper you like, too bad. The boundaries of digital book design are beholden to their whim.