Monday, October 10, 2011

Post book apocalyse

This is a good abstraction of the problems in the publishing industry.  (and in many transforming industries) The failure to understand their monopoly.  What value do you add to the product that you are selling.  How do you do something that no one else does?  What is the true value of that element and what is the actual recoverable value.... Book publishers are weighed down with dead tree artifacts, presses, staff, warehouses and distribution chains that they are either unwilling or unable to discard.  The things they are discarding are the important bits like editors and designers.... Doh!.

Personal printers made commercial printing irrelevant a long time ago.  Its really only been a question of quality that has allowed them to linger on.  Once you can print and bind a book on the desktop with one click of a mouse... they are toast.
Even if you can do it at a kiosk in the mall... it becomes an on-demand service rather than a specialist industry.  This will be the last gasp of physical publishing.  But the art of preparing the text for publication, designing the final polished product will still be a value step in the chain between author(s) and readers.  Adding context, keeping the text up to date and maintaining the contextual information's currency, relevance and history will all require people and systems.  Publishing.. minus paper, presses and trucks.  Distribution will still be a big job, advertising, selling etc... it will all still happen.  Legals, copyright, ownership etc... all still there.  Authors, editors and designers will still do exactly the same jobs... probably more.  There are multiple formats to deliver the book in, there are tradeoffs and decisions to be made. There are channels to publish into that have never existed before. 

A book is still unmatched by even a carefully curated website.  They are different.  A book promises completeness and polish. A snapshot of knowledge, story, whatever, that marks an identifiable waypoint in the flow of information and life.  We can compare and discuss the waypoint, we can refer to it. It has stability and finality.  Good or bad. It marks a tiny place in history around which all copies, abridgements, variations and edits will forever orbit. 

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