Dan's Blog

January 29, 2010

Some thoughts about the future of publishing

Filed under: publishing — ddswanson01 @ 9:58 am

I’ve been in Educational Publishing since 1994, involved in the digital products side ( software, eBooks, websites, online learning products, Web portals, etc).  I love books, I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and being in Educational Publishing has been a thrill for me.  I’m currently looking for a new positiion, and I’m hoping to remain in publishing and remain associated with eBooks.  The future of eBooks is still wide open and an exciting field, but eBooks pose an important question to publishers – how can publishers stay in business in the future?  Even today, almost anyone with Web access can publish an eBook.  Are publishers doomed to become little more than online bookstores?  And for publishers’ consumers, the readers, the task is going to be, ‘with literally millions of self-published titles to choose from, how do I determine what eBooks are worth reading?’.

I think that in one sense, at least one of the current roles that distinguish publishers will continue to be important.  In order to find valuable content, readers will look for the names of publishers they know, whose brands promise high quality content.  But that promise won’t be enough; if similar content of similar quality is available elsewhere, and it will be, what else can the publisher offer to customers to influence the decision?  That’s the kind of question I’m interested in, and I’m going to try to investigate that question here.

There’s another group to consider as well, and that’s authors.  The author’s brand can be equally as important as the publisher’s brand, in some cases maybe more so.  I’ve followed a number of authors when they left one publisher and moved to another; I’ve also picked up new authors because of the company that published them.  There are some very famous authors who have found that they make more money ‘self publishing’ that they do with their traditional publishers.  How to retain quality authors and find new ones is another puzzle publishers are going to have to solve.

These are heavy issues for publishers to address.  Many publishers have been in business for hundreds of years, and they are experts at making high quality books.  They know in advance everything that will have to be done from reviewing manuscripts to signing and working with authors to printing to distribution, how much it will cost, to what kind of marketing – every little detail.  It’s difficult to change such a complex set of interrelated and effective processes.

So what can I contribute to this process?  I hope I can make some useful observations and suggestions.  We’ll see!

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