The shape-shifting world of publishing.

September 19, 2008 at 6:00 am (General, Lori Devoti) (, )

By Lori Devoti

Times they are a changing. We all know that right? If you have any doubts of that give this article a gander. It lays it all out nice and pretty. Now this isn’t as disturbing to me as it may be to some other authors because I have a background in newspapers. Can we all say DINOSAURS?

Fifteen years ago dino….sorry…NEWSPAPERS were yelling and screaming about changing times and how we had to keep up or die. Buggy whips were mentioned a lot. The fact that to survive in changing times businesses have to rethink what they actually are was mentioned a lot. Newspapers, for example, are in the business of delivering news.

Not rocket science, I know, but still an apparently very tough concept for many newspaper industry leaders to get. Because, here’s the thing, newspapers get/got all wrapped up in the delivery method. They defined themselves by that very expensive, very hard to manage dinosaur of delivery–paper. Sure, they started web sites. But have you gone to most small newspaper web sites? What is wrong with them? Why don’t we use them? Because they are built like newspapers! Instead of looking at the problem from the user’s end, and thinking about why people would use the Internet, they slapped their same old format onto the Net, then went around congratulating themselves.

As you can tell, I was not impressed.

So, now here we are in publishing. People are screaming that books of the paper and ink variety are too expensive and the whole distribution system is just, well, hosed. But then there are others scrambling as fast and as hard as they can to hold onto what they have…never mind that customers are moving on, that their lifestyles are changing. We can’t, and if we don’t well, then they can’t either.

Wrong. Customers will change. They always do, and if the people who provide them with the base service (news for example rather than newspapapers) don’t change with them, they will move on to someone who will. Because someone will step in and fill that void–someone not weighted down with all the “but this is how we do it” baggage.

So, book publishing has to shape-shift, to figure out what their real role is and deliver it in a way that fills their customers needs while still turning a profit. And all of us get to wait and watch, and maybe do a little shifting of our own if we want to survive.

Are you ready? Are you excited or scared? Do you think it is even possible for the current issues in publishing (massive returns) to be solved and publishing houses as we know them to still exist? Will writers still exist? I mean I KNOW some writers will exist, but what about the great mid-list? Is the death knell near?



  1. Cathy said,

    The written word has existed for centuries. It has changed in how it was written, on what it was written on and who was allowed to read it. Why do we think it not already evolving. I own over 3,000 books, hard back, paperback, trade size, weird size and e-book. Times are always changing so is how we read. I just go with the flow and only complain when I’m forced to read an e-book on a digital adobe reader that you can’t change font size for us older reader!!@!

  2. AJ Hampton said,

    Things will all shift and morph, but in the end, the fundementals stay the same. There will always be books. eReaders are nice, but, you can’t beat holding a book in your hands, slipping into a hot bubble bath and relazing. Hubby would kill me if I took the lappy in the bath, lol.



  3. Savanna Kougar said,

    Bottom line: profitibility. If they don’t get on with a format that works for readers and authors at an affordable price, I don’t care what they attempt in this economy. Because hype won’t do it anymore. Neither will a book be viable just because it’s in print. At least, not in the current selling model.

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