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Monday, October 15, 2012

Saving The Publishing Industry?

"Reports of my death
are greatly exaggerated"
READ ALL ABOUT IT! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Publishing has died. At least according to many people who are closer to dying themselves :)

The publishing industry is NOT dead NOR is it dying --- It has just been reborn (or being reborn), so to speak.

Now, some people may say the new publishing babe is a bastard or born with handicaps --- but, I say: with love, understanding and therapy the newborn will shake out just fine.

My opinion of course. What's yours?

Colin Robinson, a founder of the New York-based independent publisher OR Books, has his own ideas RE how to save the publishing industry:

Ten ways to save the publishing industry

With book publishing in crisis, Colin Robinson calls for a reformation

This year, on the face of things, it's been business as usual at the Frankfurt book fair, with some 7,500 exhibitors setting up shop in the gleaming white Messe. But scratch beneath the surface and a tangible unease about the future of the industry is evident: book sales are stagnating, profit margins are being squeezed by higher discounts and falling prices, and the distribution of book buyers is ever more polarised between record-shattering bestsellers and an ocean of titles with tiny readerships. The mid-list, where the unknown writer or new idea can spring to prominence, is progressively being hollowed out. This is bad news not just for publishing but for the culture at large.

It's time for a reformation in publishing, and the precepts set out below provide a basis for the creation of a new, healthier book industry. They echo another event that occurred during October in Germany, nearly half a millennium ago: the nailing of Martin Luther's 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg cathedral. Luther was protesting against the idea that the route to salvation could be secured by payments to those at the top of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. The theses here should have been pinned to the Amazon stand at Frankfurt.

1. Publish for readers, not authors. The 21st-century publishing environment has tipped the balance still further towards the importance of the reader. The garrote that Amazon has applied, using its market share to obtain ever higher discounts from publishers that, in turn, allow price cuts that secure still more customers, is possible because of the behemoth's direct relationship to readers. To break this stranglehold, publishers must start selling direct. The longer-term advantages of using their own customer databases to sell at full price, rerouting the additional revenue into marketing, will outweigh any initial discomfort about eschewing the services of the world's largest booksellers.

2. Publish more selectively. In a recent open letter to Amazon customers touting Kindle Direct Publishing (through which authors sell their books directly to readers), founder Jeff Bezos claimed that the programme produced "a more diverse book culture" with "no expert gatekeepers saying, 'Sorry but that will never work.'" Bezos evidently regards the function of publisher as obsolete. Publishers will flourish when they are seen as discriminating arbiters of their customers' tastes. Limiting the number of books published will assist in emphasising this vital role of gate-keeper. Publishing successive books by the same author, or books grouped tightly by type or subject, will underscore the publisher's authority as a curator.

3. Focus on editing and design. The new publishing dispenses with a variety of traditional functions: investing in print runs, warehousing, catalogues, chasing payments and processing returns. But other tasks such as editing and design take on additional importance. Ensuring that books are readable and attractive is a vital way for publishers to stay afloat in an ocean of self-published titles.

4. Hold no stock. Print-on-demand remains significantly more expensive than conventional printing. But it means the end of misjudgments about how many books to print. Further savings will be achieved by foregoing warehouse costs and not tying up capital in stock. And, of course, in this new, more efficient system, the environment benefits alongside the publisher's bottom line.

5. Publish fast. For books dealing with current affairs or breaking cultural trends, to say nothing of the publisher's cash flow, the advantages of direct-to-reader digital publishing's faster turnarounds are enormous.

Read and learn more

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