Saturday, September 24, 2011

What do we need publishers for?

A new wrinkle on the e-books front.

I've thought from the beginning that the publishers of real book/books should drag their feet on the e-books front.

I didn't think e-books were inevitable. Not like music. I won't go into all the arguments why.

But it turns out, that publishers aren't really needed. News sites can gather their articles and their reporters and create non-fiction e-books without the publishers.


What is it that publishers do exactly? Select and edit and produce books.

What don't e-books need? Most of what publishers do.

Good job making yourself obsolete, publishers. At least as far as non-fiction books are concerned.

Fiction still has to be produced. But even there, the more the publishers push fiction, the more authors are going to figure out they don't need the publishers.

Funny how I can stand back and watch Barnes and Noble subvert their own core business, and watch the non-fiction publishers become less essential.

I carry fiction. I carry books. I bet there are still lots of people who want to read both.

I just hope there will still be some publishers around to select, edit and produce the novels I want to sell.


RDC said...

The example of news organizations producing is really not the likely scenerio.

Instead it is authors self publishing. The good ones, those in demand will still probably use some of the services that publishers provide. They might contract with services to do it, instead of a publishing house.

For example when you look at publishers that provide the following services for authors:

1. editing
2. formatting
3. production
4. graphics
5. advertising
6. distribution
7. proofreading

They also do one of their more important functions

8. function as a quality gatekeeper.

A book today (unless it is done via vanity press) has to satisfy the publishers view of quality and potential for commercial success. While that means that some good works go unpublished it does mean that if one sticks to the major publishers that the offerings are limited to those that have atleast passed that hurdle. Similar to the record companies selecting music artists prior to MP3. Even then there are far far more books published in a year then one can effectively screen.

With e-books the low hurdle for self publishing means that a lot of low quality books can reach the market and the reader will need to be more selective themselves and some other mechanism will develop to identify those books that are worth someone spending dollars and time on.

Even with self publishing someone, if they are looking for producing a quality product will still need some of the services and for name authors one stop shopping will probably still be the way to go.

In this case, as with others financial systems will move towards efficiency, elimination of unnecessary steps. The most efficient process is directly from the author to the reader. E-books will move in that direction over time.

The current process is author, publisher, printer, distributor, retailer, reader

The internet has trimmed part of that with Amazon functioning as both distributor and retailer.

H. Bruce Miller said...

The last time we went to Maui, two years ago, I saw one person reading a Kindle at the resort where we stayed. This year, at the same resort, I would say one-third of the people are reading e-books. And the demographic at this place is a little on the middle-aged (or older) side, which probably skews the figures toward conventional books.

E-books are here to stay, Dunc. Accept it.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"They also do one of their more important functions 8. function as a quality gatekeeper."

Judging from the general quality of what gets published these days, I'd say they don't perform that function very well.

Duncan McGeary said...

You're probably right.

I guess I'm hoping paper books are here to stay, too.

RDC said...

During a recent survey on a web site that deals with cruise lines 2/3 of the those answering indicated that they would be using an e-book reader during their next cruise. It was split between nook and kindle

Duncan McGeary said...

Well, now.

You've just combined two of my least favorite things.

As some wit asked recently -- can cruising even be considered traveling?