Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A More Eloquent Argument Than Mine

I know I promised the last in my series of posts today, but two things happened to derail me:

(1) I went to see my doctor who released me to drive. Doing the Happy Dance!!! I spent several hours visiting the local nursery, the bookstore, the Jewish deli, the dry cleaners, etc., etc. Came home and collapsed into a three-hour nap.

(2) Publishers Lunch offered a link to Jason Epstein's speech at the Tools of Change conference. You'll recall I mentioned Jason in my post for yesterday. He is one of the founders of On Demand Books, the firm that developed the Espresso Book Machine.

I'd like to detour today to let you read his comments, which are far more eloquent than anything I've been saying this week.

Here is a small piece of the speech:
The radically decentralized digital marketplace has already rendered traditional publishing infrastructure -- warehouses, inventory, shipping, returns and so on redundant. Like American automobile manufacturers traditional publishers will persist in their traditional mode as long as they can, but they cannot indefinitely defend their institutions against disruptive technologies any more than the monks in their scriptoria could withstand the urgency of movable type.

As factory based production and distribution gradually give way to web based production and marketing the cost of entry for publishers will decline to practically zero. Such traditional publishing functions as publicity, design, marketing, legal, record keeping and so on will be sub contracted as will web marketing and design. Talented editors require only minimal managerial services and in the digital future will require even fewer provided they resist inducements to expand or merge. Today's unwieldy conglomerates, trapped in a bad economy within their Gutenberg mode and motivated only by profit rather than the intrinsic value of the work itself -- the joy of publishing distinguished books, the primary motive of successful publishers -- will deconstruct, leaving their surviving imprints to fend for themselves under diverse ownership or vanish.

Resourceful agents may become business managers for groups of like minded editors and authors whose imprints will become recognizable brands, distinguishing their content from the great sea of helter skelter digital content while authors, as stakeholders along with their editors, may opt for profit sharing arrangements rather than traditional royalties. Best selling branded authors who require only minimal publishing services beyond manufacturing and distribution may become their own publishers, retaining their agents as business managers, subcontracting essential functions, and forgoing today's unsustainable guarantees in exchange for the entire net proceeds of their titles. Customers will pay less but pricing must still cover traditional author royalties, residual publishers' overheads and profit.
Go here to read the entire speech.

I'll be back tomorrow with my last post in my series.

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