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This blog is about “new” forms of publishing but I am still addicted to books! Ironically, I found Jeff Gomez' Print Is Dead: Books in our Digital Age
in my local library and it was definitely worth a Sunday afternoon read.
- Writers today have been inspired by print books. The age of most successful writers today means they grew up without the internet, without email, without YouTube so the concept of what a book is remains with the print book. For Gen Y and beyond, they have so many other versions of what media is that the print book is just one. Creating content posting it online immediately is reality.(Why wait 18 months to have your print book published when you can be on Kindle tomorrow? There is an audience online, you just have to be out there.)
- Technorati vs literati: the former is thrilled by the technology that is changing publishing while the literati cling to the old ways. But the literati have lost already because the change has already happened. Digital reading is everywhere – in texting, email, google news, documents, ebooks, downloadable reports, blogs.
- Writers now need to be online with their message even if they have a print book. They need to offer free content, be part of online communities and accept the new reality. These online communities can also be useful for research. Drill down on books you have read atLibraryThing and see what other people have been reading.
- People have limited attention and they want to find something fast, consume it fast and move on. There is a huge amount of free information on the net as well, so people will only pay if it is worthwhile. Consider the benefits of ebooks and ebook readers as opposed to the drawbacks (for example, when I moved from Australia to New Zealand I spent several thousand dollars shipping my books…when I could have flown my library hand luggage with an ebook reader!)
- Books will always be around but they will be luxury items, special editions and more expensive. Candles are not necessary for light anymore but people pay more money for them as luxury items, as romantic props. (An example this week is the MichelangeloLa Dotto Mano sculpture bookbound in Carrara marble and velvet worth more than $100,000)
- The price of ebooks must be considered more like a movie than as a physical product. When you leave a movie theatre you hold nothing in your hands but you have had an experience. People must learn to pay for that and not expect the printing and binding to be the cost of a book.
- Independent bookshops will become more popular if they focus on serving a local market. People can buy millions of books online but will look to the independent store as more of a community. They cannot compete with global reach of Amazon, but they can offer a place to gather, talk and experience books.
Gomez also considers why publishers are still needed in a digital age. Here is his list and my response in [brackets]:
- Publishers find talent. [Sites like Authonomy use social networking to allow the readers choice to rise to the top so talent finds the publisher. Bloggers can sell themselves,create an audience and get a book deal. Basically, if you can get noticed, you can find a publisher. This seems to be the way as opposed to publishers searching for talent.]
- Publishers support talent. [ Do they? Or do they support the authors that bring in the dollars. There seem to be ample stories of publishers who don't help authors with publicity, or ignore them if they are not a hit within the first 6 weeks, or who move onto the next thing. There are now countless places for author support online and groups of authors are even setting up their own places to showcase themselves. Book View Cafe has 20 publisher authors including Ursula Le Guin which seems like self-support.]
- Publishers edit writing and keep quality control.[Freelance editors can be found online for reasonable prices at sites like Elance. For any author who wants to self-publish, they can have their own experienced editor. ]
- Publishers expose and market talent. [ They might market in the traditional sense, but now marketing needs to be online, viral and relevant – as well as constant content. Therefore, authors are having to do it themselves, building sites, maintaining blogs, writing articles, joining social network groups. Authors can do this themselves for free or cheaply.]
- Publishers pay talent. [ Yes, if authors can get a good advance and royalties, but it is not exactly a millionaire lifestyle. Authors can make more money self-publishing e-books if they can get the audience. A download has no print or shipping costs and if you have self-published, you just pay credit cards fees. Print-on-demand offers about the same revenue as a book properly published, but if you own the rights, you can get it distributed globally including on Google Book Search and keep the revenue yourself.]
I am not anti-publisher, but I don't think these are valid reasons for the existence of publishers anymore. So what are the reasons to have a publisher now?