Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Changing Publishing Industry

Over on Nathan Bransford's blog, he talks about a recent change in a publishing house:
Some big news afoot in the land of publishing, as Hyperion founding publisher Bob Miller is embarking on a project that is so futuristic and groundbreaking it just may involve flying cars and robot vacuum cleaners. Miller is moving over to HarperCollins to launch a publishing group that will involve a profit-sharing model for compensating authors rather than the advance/royalties model, and will attempt to find new avenues for books in electronic media.
And, of course, SCBWI (at least the Carolina branch) is up in arms over Amazon's upcoming policy about only allowing their inhouse e-publisher sell e-books on Amazon (as opposed to allowing any e-pub sell e-books via their site). This move will obviously increase profit for Amazon's e-pubilisher, BookSurge, but at the same time does seem as if Amazon is dressing up in a little suit and top-hot in order to collect $200 every time they pass "Go."

All of this is indicative of the changing face of publishing. Publishing is going to change--perhaps not as rapidly as the music industry has had to (Napster and iTunes speeded that up nicely), but there will be change. Look how efficient the audiobooks feature is in iPod. Look at the advancements and obvious interests in Kindle and other e-readers. Heck, just look at how thin and portable laptops are--to say nothing of internet capable phones. Despite what the educational and publishing professionals are saying, people read. We just read differently. I've listened to the Harry Potter books on my iPod more than I've read them. I've purchased e-books and enjoyed them. I read blogs instead of newspapers or magazines. The method is different, but I don't read less than fact, I probably read more.

Which is why we have to change the way we market and sell in the publishing industry. While I do think that Amazon is being a bit monopolisitc (it's my blog, I can make up my own words!), I do think Miller's idea of "profit sharing mode" (which does sound like "no advance, but bigger royalities") is at least worth a try, and I applaud any effort that explores new methods to publishing.

As a teacher of teens, I see it all the time. They're one step ahead of adults as to the next big thing. If publishing professionals are more willing to explore different avenues of publishing (online, electronically, even via cell phones or new forms of media), then the publishing industry will grow and change--and may one day rise to the point of appreciation that is currently being enjoyed by the music industry. Yes, music can be downloaded illegally...but I don't see how that's had a negative effect on music labels, especially now that musicians are releasing their music directly to the public--and profiting from it. For real change, publishing will need to follow in the music industry's footsteps: develop technology to support the changing times (like a book version of the iPod--perhaps the Kindle), develop new ways to publish (ebooks, audiobooks...something new?), develop easier access to release new published items (like a publishing version of iTunes)...and even if there is a Napster-style theft that crops up, more profits--and more audience--will roll in.
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