Technology in the Publishing and Fast Food Industries


Publishing and fast food are, on the surface, two very different industries. One sells books, the other food, and the way they do it is very different. Fast food customers must go to restaurants to order, but authors usually connect with publishers through agents. Many traditional publishers are having a hard time adapting to the internet revolution 2.0 and the rise of eBooks. Looking closer at both of these industries reveals ways that publishers can learn from fast food companies to improve their business, and gain competitive advantage. Many players in both industries are not currently taking advantage of technology trends, leaving them at risk of being beaten by competitors.


Technology has had a deep impact on the publishing industry press. In the 1440s, for example, the printing press was invented leading to a major revolution in thought. The press allowed written ideas to be communicated easily at a low cost. A similar revolution occurred in the 1990s with the invention of the internet. The internet allows people around the world to share ideas much more easily than in the past. The publishing industry has had major changes related to the internet revolution. For example, the growth of web 2.0 services allows authors to self-publish books and interact with fans online. The web 2.0 movement has affected many different areas of publishing. In academic publishing, for example, there has been a shift towards online peer-review and new forms of group learning, called scholarship 2.0 (Tappeiner & Lyons, 2013, p206). Internet technology makes it possible for authors to get quality feedback very fast on their work. They can also build a fan base with social media, and therefore take over many of the duties of a traditional publisher. Publishers have needed to adapt to the internet revolution by providing new services, like social media marketing, that did not exist a few decades ago.

There are at least seven technology trends that have been identified in the book publishing industry. Trend one is the shift of publishing services online (Danet, 2014, p276). Ebooks are a market segment that is growing rapidly and cutting into print book sales. Publishers have also had to move online for communications with the press and the use of social media. Trend two is the saturation of the eInk market (p277). EInk devices like the Kindle seem to have reached a peak in sales, as phone and tablet devices become better for reading. Trend three is the shift in demand for tablets towards smaller sizes. Publishers therefore need to target smaller devices when publishing books and marketing online. Trend four is the many new ways that publishers can present images and text. There are now many different formats for eBooks, and publishers can also use websites and apps to distribute content. Trend five is a connected reading experience (p278). More and more consumers have access to high quality internet services and online book stores. Trend six is the loss of the immensity of the publishing process. It is more possible than ever before for an author to manage many of the duties of a traditional publisher on their own. Trend seven is the invention of new hardware technologies (p279). Touch-screen technology is being applied in more and more areas of the household. Publishers need to recognize new ways that people read, and make sure books are available. Technology affects publishing in many ways, but how does it affect a different industry, like fast food?

Fast Food

The fast food industry, like publishing, has had to adapt to new technology. Computer systems speed up the process of taking orders and sending them to cooks, which helps companies serve more customers faster. This technology is not perfect though, and many fast food restaurants still have bad service. These computer systems, for example, do not take into account the conditions in the restaurant that affect the most efficient order of making food (Aldred, 1998, p8). This means people who have small orders sometimes need to wait a long time if other big orders are not finished. In some fast-food restaurants like Tim Hortons, the same person who takes the order also prepares the food. This is not an efficient way of providing service, and the computer system technology is not being used to its full potential. The fast food industry has in some ways also taken advantage of the internet revolution. These companies perform online marketing and use social media, which helps them reach a wider audience. There is still opportunity though for fast food companies to move loyalty programs and other customer services online in order to improve efficiency and lower costs.

Technology can be used in many different ways to improve fast food service. Some restaurants, for example, use robots to prepare food and perform cooking tasks (Steinmetz, 2015, p28). Robots are good for performing repetitive tasks like cutting noodles, and can be used to reduce the cost of labour and make tasks faster with less error. Touch-screen technology can also be used to speed up ordering and reduce costs, by allowing customers to input orders on a device instead of talking to a person. In the near future it may also be possible for customers to order food using an app on their smartphones or tablets. This would improve efficiency, because customers could place the orders before actually being in the restaurant. It was technology that allowed fast food restaurants to grow as an industry, and they will have to adapt and use new technologies to survive. This means making apps and performing online marketing to attract new generations of loyal customers. Fast food companies can also take advantage of new technology to track customer statistics, and give managers more control over local menu choices. The major future players in the industry will take advantage of technology to provide many different forms of competitive advantage. Other than creating its own unique challenges, how does technology affect the publishing industry in comparison to fast food?


The publishing industry has made more progress using technology to create new markets. Ebooks, for example, are a way that publishers have created a new product market. There has been no similar revolution in the way food is distributed in fast food restaurants. Maybe in the far future, drone delivery of food will create a similar revolution. For now though, publishing is ahead of fast food at taking advantage of technology to distribute products. Technology has still, however, cut into the profits of traditional publishers much more than for fast food chains. Many publishers have not been fast enough to adopt eBooks to avoid losses in print markets. Publishing is also behind in online marketing. Amazon has had a lot of success in online marketing because of its support of eBooks and self-publishing, cutting into profits for traditional publishers. Many other companies also profit from providing web 2.0 services to authors. Traditional publishers, however, have been slower to provide online access to their services. Many publishers still rely a lot of agents personal contact with authors, which is very valuable in some cases but also inefficient for authors that would prefer to use an app or website. The publishing and fast food industries would both benefit from using technology to create a a closer connection between authors, editors, and their agents. Authors will remain loyal to publishers if they receive good value from the relationship. Fast food restaurants can provide value to customers by improving efficiency. They can take up less customer time, and require lower labour cost for each customer served. Publishers can get similar gains in efficiency by giving authors online control over publishing accounts. They will save labour for editors and agents, and will provide convenience to many authors. This step helps publishers cross the gap between traditional publishing and self-publishing. The most important thing though is communicating the value of publishing services to potential customers and authors. Fast food companies are not being very successful at communicating their value over other food choices online. The publishing industry has a similar problem. Using technology to improve author services, and give them a piece of the savings from lower costs, will create a competitive advantage for publishers with the use of modern internet 2.0 technology.


The publishing and fast food industries seem very different at first. Looking at how technology affects both of these industries, however, reveals some things that are the same. Both industries are failing to take full advantage of current web 2.0 technologies. Many publishers still do not give authors a convenient way to manage services online. They also fail to communicate the value of publishing services to potential customers online, over self-publishing options. At least one opportunity that technology could create for the fast food industry in the future, a revolution in distribution, has already happened in publishing. Publishers that have not adapted to the technology trends from the internet revolution are losing the race. Publishers with the greatest competitive advantages are those that embrace the change of technology, and apply it to create new markets and provide better value to authors.


Aldred, K. (1998). Technology fails to keep pace at fast-food restaurant. IIE solutions, 30(6), p8.

Danet, P. (2014). The future of book publishing: Seven technology trends and three industry   goals. Publishing research quarterly, 30(3), p275-281.

Steinmetz, K. (2015). Order up! Why your fast food is about to come even faster. Time, 186(13), p28.

Tappeiner, E. & Lyons, K. (2013). Technology innovations in publishing: New directions in   academic and cultural communication. International journal of technology, knowledge & society, 9(2), p206-214.

Showing 2 Reviews

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    Juan Pablo Alperin
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    This essay, while demonstrating some good research, fails to provide an analysis of the two industries. By presenting the two industries in series, rather than in parallel, it has few opportunities to draw the connections between the two. Although some similar elements are described for both, the touch points between them are never really made explicit, and so the lessons we're supposed to learn from the comparisons are lost. It was an interesting topic, and the areas identified are worth exploring, but the execution needed a little more of an analytical perspective.

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    Adam Van der Zwan
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    Hi Hua,

    First of all, I found the topic of your essay very interesting. Upon reading it, I was immediately intrigued at what could possibly compare between the publishing and the fast food industries. Though, I’m going to be honest and say that after finishing the entire essay I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot, and that your analysis, research, and sentence and paragraph structure could use quite a bit of work to improve this essay.
    To begin with, I found the overall entirety of the essay to be tad vague, especially in the introduction. It would have been worthwhile and more engaging to briefly list a few examples as to why traditional publishers have difficulty adapting in the digital age, and to briefly list how the publishing industry could learn from the fast-food industry (a question that was not answered, but rather contradicted throughout the essay). Unfortunately, this was the point I was most interested in. Additionally, the rest of the piece was rather vague; the essay would state concepts but would not go on to list deeper examples pertaining to these concepts. I would suggest a little more research be done to make this improvement.
    Upon reading your section on publishing, I found that the essay rapidly ran through many different influences that technology has made on the publishing industry, but wouldn’t elaborate on any of the points. Instead I would read merely one or two sentences introducing each influence. I feel as though this was done because of the length constraints on the piece, and I find it would have been beneficial to instead list two or three technological influences on publishing, and then elaborate on those with explicit details.
    Conversely, I would like to have seen more examples throughout your section on the fast food industry as well. Perhaps a little more research on the technological influences to this industry would improve it, as I found certain concepts to be merely glossed over, rather than expanded upon. An example of this would be when the essay describes systems that have been built to aid fast food workers in making orders. What do these systems look like and how do they work? What are some other obstacles to having a system like this in the industry? What other specific customer services could benefit from digital technology?
    I also had trouble reading through your analysis paragraph, as I found the majority of the paragraph wasn’t actually analysis. In fact, the only point of analysis that actually traversed the fast food and the publishing industries together occurred near the end of the paragraph when the essay stated that the two industries could both “benefit from using technology.” Though the essay doesn’t clearly state what could be benefitted, and how and what types of technology could be used to benefit the industries. Again, I feel as if a lot more research is needed to properly analyze and establish any points that support this argument.
    One minor detail I’d like to mention was that I found much of the language in the piece to be short, stilted and rather unnatural. I feel as though a better proofread could have helped, and the article could have utilized certain grammar tools to link sentences together to make them longer, more academic and readable. Further, I feel more scholarly or academic language could have been used.
    Finally, I feel as if this essay could have benefitted from a different structure entirely, as the way it’s currently set up — to clump publishing and fast food into their own sections, then to analyze them afterward — was probably not the most efficient form to use for the type of analysis I’m assuming this essay was striving for. Again, I think it would have helped to use two or three prominent points of comparison between the two industries, and to take the majority of your essay to analyze and argue these points with proper research and depth.
    Overall, I think this is a good start to the essay but it definitely needs some substantial work to help the ideological structure be less confusing, the points relatable, the sentences and wording less stilted, and the analysis is less hazy. Please see the annotations I’ve made on your web page for further specifics on where these improvements could be made.

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      Juan Pablo Alperin

      This is an excellent and detailed review that when combined with the annotations ( gives the author a very clear idea of how she might improve her paper.


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