A note on the publishing apocolypse

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.

2 Replies to “A note on the publishing apocolypse”

  1. She makes a lot of good arguments. There are some things I could quibble with but the over all sentiment is right on target. The problem is, at least as far as I can tell, that most editors agree. They think the business model (purchase, publish, distribute, point of sale, return, remaindering, pulping) is insane, at least that’s what I hear from the few I have had the opportunity to talk with (granted, a limited sample).

    And if I had to make a suggestions, I think the “distribute/pos” is where the most innovation needs to happen. That will also mean a change to the end of the cycle, but not so much to the beginning. However, form what little I can see, the wheels come off the bus at the distribution point. Fixing it, however, will also mean a lot of other business need to change their current mind set. Book section in Wal-Mart? How about a few shelves? – um, no how about a section like the DVD/CD section? And how about local distributors that know who reads what and goes to which store, like we used to have when you could buy spec. fic in grocery stores. I have seem a few more grocery stores add in books, but it’s a real small section and they mostly stock the “big sellers.” And it’s all mostly driven from corporate headquarters instead of local procurement.

    Ah well.

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