Sunday, May 02, 2010

Publishing as a Business

I stumbled upon a very long and interesting article over on Knowledge@Wharton. I thought I’d share a few highlights with you and the link so you can jump over and read the full Q&A. The title, What Does the Drooping Book Business Need? How About a Jolt of Expresso?, would lead you to believe it’s about The Expresso machine. It does touch on that, but it covers a wide range of information.

It’s a multi-person discussion and here are some snippets:
Eventually all the content in the world will be digitized and available everywhere in the world in that format. It will be downloaded in one way or another -- either to be read online or to be printed in book form by Espresso or similar devices. [Jason Epstein]

Books will be cheaper; more [money] will go to the author; and the publisher will get a better break. But those are the ultimate effects; there will be a lot of static between now and then. [Jason Epstein]

Word-of-mouth has always been the best way to sell a book -- and the web represents the word-of-mouth medium in spades. There's never been anything like it. [Dane Neller]

There's much too much overhead and complexity. There's too much unnecessary management. Lawyers get in the way of everything. That can't last. Digitization I think will inevitably have to replace it. [Epstein]
As I said, it’s a long piece, but very interesting. So, feel free to leap over and make it your Sunday read.

One opinion is that print books will not disappear, which is good news for most of us who love to hold the physical book. But there does seem to be a consensus that digitalization is the future and it will result in bigger profits for both the writer and the publisher.

What do you think? With more and more writers self-publishing, can publishers remain king of the publishing hill?
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  1. I think it will be a case of wait and see. Downloading books maybe great for those who have a computer, but the older generation may not have computer but are still avid readers may buy books from charity shops, second hand books and borrow from libraries.

    Just a thought.

  2. I agree with the part about word-of-mouth being the best way to sell a book. I see where the internet has helped that in so many ways. I think it's good too that the profits would be bigger for the writer since they put a lot of hard work and time into their work.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. This self-publishing wave is interesting; it means there is hope for all of us. But it alo means there will be more competition to get attention in the virtual reality jungle.

    But to nice weather to sit indoor writing today. Think I will go for a walk to enjoy our recently arrived spring ... >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  4. There will always be those who can't or won't master the self-publishing angle. So there will always be publishers.
    Personally, I think digital will become the primary way to publish and paper will be those special purchases.
    Seniors will go digital because of the zoom and if you can adjust the back light it will be ideal.
    If nobody gets greedy it will work for everyone. Unfortunately everyone is not a Knorath.
    Giggles and Guns

  5. I think most of those things sound like a plus, but someone has to be losing somewhere.
    Will check out the full article!

  6. I will never give up holding a book. Just the feel of a book is a comfort to me.

    I will read the article, thanks for the link.

  7. We now have an iPad in our house. My husband bought one. And as of this morning, he has two books loaded on it. He loves it. I have not downloaded a book for me yet. I love print books, but I could get used to digital.

  8. I do believe digital will be more popular as time goes on. We are such an "I want it now" society, but I would rather wait and get a book in my hands. With so many different formats it will be interesting to see which survive (think video and beta).
    Ann Summerville
    Cozy In Texas

  9. Interesting!

    I think people will self-publish, but publishers will continue to be a sort of gate-keeper of quality, if that makes sense. Kind of the way loads of singers post on YouTube and ultimately those who are successful are signed by a label.

  10. Many people misread the question posed by the advent of digitization. Digitization or electronic publishing doesn't necessarily equate to the end of the physical book. Rather it is a description of the technology used to print a book--any book. All books, whether they are physical or not are generated from an electronic file and that has changed the publishing paradigm to the degree that the big six publishers no longer have a monopoly. The power to publish, placed in the hands of the author, is a wonderful boon to the voice of the individual. For traditional publishers the bottom line of corporate profits is the leading impetus behind manuscript choice, and unfortunately this leaves a lot of wonderful, fresh new voices out in the cold, but thanks to the advent of new formats and technologies, this has changed.

    By the way, at the end of the first quarter this year net sales at Amazon rose 46% to $7.13 billion; net income rose 68% to $299 million. This has been atrributed to the advent of kindle and the many new titles that are self-published, so I do believe the title of that article calling the book business "drooping" is inaccurate. I'm very optimistic about the book business as I experience the success of my own self-published book as well as those many of my peers.

  11. Many more books are self-published than in the past, for sure. I think even traditional publishers are accepting digital publishing now that they see they can make as much if not more profit that way. It's a fun new world!

  12. It really is interesting to wonder how the industry will change. I can see text books for sure being online. It would be a lot easier for students to access them. I think book lovers will always have books, but a LOT of reading is going to be online soon!

  13. You'll have to give us an honest opinion of the ipad when you have a chance to read a book on it.
    I grew up on a farm and know how little of the money you pay for a gallon of milk in the store actually goes to the farmer, the one who does all the hard work. So I'll believe it when I see it about the authors getting a bigger share of the end product's profit.

  14. I agree with Epstein - eventually all the content will be digitized, and I really hope authors will get more of the money.

  15. We'll see if I get a chance to read a book on the iPad. My husband bought it because he wants to be able to take it with him when he travels.

  16. All art requires middlemen between the artist and the public, whether that middleman is a patron, a promoter, a gallery owner or a publisher. It also needs gatekeepers so the public can distinguish good art from bad. What we're seeing now is a change in the middlemen and gatekeepers. Some of the established middlemen and gatekeepers are leaving the field and new ones are vying for those spots.

    Have fun with the iPad. If you let your husband get At Bat 2010, you might never pry it away from him

  17. I think books will disappear...and eventually, we'll get used to it.


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