Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Discussions on the Future of Publishing

Given "Black Wednesday" in publishing, how should we go forward in the book world? This conversation is occurring around water coolers, online, in papers, etc..., and most of it has been said before.

But I was intrigued by the ideas offered up by David Nygren over at The Urban Elitist, in a post titled "The Future of Publishing (Maybe)." How humble. (I will admit I have not followed his blog, so I don't really know his usual p.o.v.) His vision of what publishing will become is actually quite promising, without being extreme or nihilistic.

I appreciate his point about the end of corporate publishing dominance - appreciate in that I'm pleased by this forecast, but also that I agree with its logic. He posits that theory while still allowing for gatekeepers - but these gatekeepers, egotistical or not, will not necessarily be driven by profit, or by shareholders looking only at the bottom line:
I expect the rise of “super readers,” such as Oprah has become (though not on that scale). Each super reader will have his or her own following. Many of them will be mini-tyrants, but at least the power will have moved from the profit-centered board room to those who truly care about and appreciate the content. As we have currently, various reading groups, online review journals and bloggers will also drive readers to content that might otherwise have been ignored.

This is exciting to me, and offers more promise for writers than counting on editors at corporate publishers who have marketing people and shareholders breathing down their necks, shouting to find the next big thing.

I also agree with his not-so-shocking concept of independent publishers needing to build a community, to know their niche. The concern there is always profit, or even staying afloat (forget making money), but Nygren explains that production costs and even marketing will be lower and the royalty arrangements we now have will change, so cash will flow differently. There also won't be the same warehouse costs.

I do worry that this new arrangement means less labor, as in fewer people employed by the publishing industry. Everyone can get published but no one can get hired. With print culture moving online, and being more accessible for less money, are we just discarding manual labor in the world of books and magazines and newspapers? Will there be unskilled labor jobs created? Like the discussions around environmental changes, with green collar jobs now becoming a real expression with meaning, I wonder if we need to discuss this aspect in the culture of writing and disseminating information.

Sorry I can't post as much, this week and running up to the holidays. Christopher has an idea for the top books of 2008... only I don't read many new books. If mine can be old books read in 2008, I may be better off?

1 comment:

David Nygren said...

Brian, interesting point about the effects on jobs in the publishing industry (of which I'm also a part). I suspect that the production-type jobs could be lost, though hopefully design will still have it's place. Editorial and marketing roles will still be vital, but will be spread among smaller publishers (at least for literature). Hell, I bet it will be a lot of the mid-level people currently working for the big boys who will start all these new boutique publishing houses that I dream of!