Dan Wagstaff had an excellent post up over the weekend at CasualOptimist. Here’s the crux:
My point is not that we should not stop experimenting with new author contracts, transparency, formats, trade terms, or marketing — we need to try new things and be allowed to fail. But this should not come at the expense of consistently good, interesting (and inexpensive) books.
I encourage you to read the post. It’s a summary of things that have been and are being tried to in order to gain a toehold in the new publishing reality, but — as Dan points out — it’s also a reminder that the basic problem is not one of process but product. What is it that is the publishing industry should be selling?
In the comments to the post, I wrote this:
…if the industry needs to contract on the basis of content alone (ignoring other obvious reasons driving a coming contraction) — it seems to me that the internet is a useful mechanism by which that contraction can be managed, as opposed to happening at a more precipitous rate.
I think it’s clear that corporate publishing cannot continue in its present form. It’s top-heavy and badly listing, and sooner or later economic pressures are going to take their toll. Thinking about this over the weekend, it seems to me that even as the internet is the instigator of many of publishing’s woes, it’s also a relief valve of sorts in that it allows publishers to connect readers with content, while at the same time being more (appropriately) selective about which content is turned into physical books. (Note how completely this distinction seems to be lost in the current publishing dialogue at the corporate level, while it is at the heart of discussions at the authorial level.) [ Read more ]