January 9, 2009
The world of publishing is imploding and Jane over at Dear Author has written a fairly lengthy piece on the need for innovative publishing in order to save the industry. I’m not as frightened, at least in the long term. Publishing will continue, books will be written and sold for the foreseeable future, but any particular corporation? Maybe not. While Jane points out the diminishing slice of the entertainment pie books get nowadays, the problem with modern publishing isn’t so much a lack of innovation. Or, more precisely, the inability of major publishers to innovate is more a symptom than a cause. Over the past two or three deades there’s been a tremendous consolidation in every aspect of the publishing industry, from publishers to distribution, to retail outlets. The problem is, the larger a business is, the less adaptable it becomes. As catistrophic as the loss of a major publishing house might be, in the end it might just be what we need. If you look at the sections of the publishing world that are doing well, you see small niche publishers, e-books, and genre titles. In other words, the model that treats books as mass-media is doomed. Those who adapt, serving some particular niche, will survive and proliforate.
Bet on the mole rats, not the T-rex.