Change in Publishing: (not really) answers to (not really) questions. Writers, insiders and publishers discuss freely about 5 popular tags. Coming next: Jacob Appel. Follow us: RSS | Twitter | Facebook
** Stephen Brown** Professor of Marketing Research in the Ulster Business School, Stephen is a specialist in the marketing strategies of brand-name authors like J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and Dan Brown Writing Marketing | Selling Stories Successfully | More books
There’s no stopping them. They’re the way of the future. We’ve only scratched the surface thus far. I think they’ll have very far-reaching effects once publishers / authors / illustrators / designers start to really explore the possibilities (interactivity, hyperlinks, special features, audio-visual aspects, etc., etc.). Some people see them as the “death of the book”. I think they might be the beginning of something truly wonderful.
People are reading more than ever. Everywhere you go, people are reading, reading, reading. They may not be reading traditional paperback books or magazines. They’re more likely to be reading Facebook pages or Twitter streams or their emails or blogs or ebooks or what have you. They are reading, though. This suggests that publishers need to radically rethink their offerings (can the first Twitter novel be far away?). It’s vitally necessary to adapt to the new reading dispensation. The old model isn’t broken – just consider the success of, say, Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy – but it isn’t sufficient any more.
The independent publishers that I know personally are having a fairly difficult time at present. They’re being squeezed by a combination of the big conglomerates and the big retailers, both of whom are obsessed with big, blockbuster books. I’m inclined, however, to subscribe to the economist J.K. Galbraith’s old notion of “countervailing power”. As in the music industry (and many other industries), innovative start-ups will eventually rise to challenge the giants, perhaps with radical ideas based around the ebook revolution.
The prevailing belief is that ebooks should be cheap and cheerful, less pricey certainly than the hardbacks and softbacks they’ll replace. I think this is the wrong way to look at it. Ebooks have the potential to be premium products, provided all the add-ons mentioned above are incorporated into the offer. Just think of how Taschen has succeeded in the traditional market. Who’ll be the Taschen of ebooks? I suspect that’s a potentially lucrative niche.
History shows that in many, many industries, the really radical innovations come from outsiders. The impending revolution in publishing will not be led by today’s pre-eminent publishing houses. It’s the people with no investment in the current institutional arrangements who’ll instigate the most significant changes. What those changes will be, I don’t honestly know. I do think the ebook is a harbinger, however.