Saturday, May 1, 2010

The future of publishing - and a new business model

The demise of an ages-old business model and the emergence of a new one to take its place is always an exciting thing to watch - unless you are part of the age-old business model on its way to its demise. There are old assumptions challenged, changes in the way consumers consume, the emergence of a technology trigger, new financing patterns, new winners and losers. Fascinating to someone looking-in from the outside.

An industry that has pretty much been under attack since the coming of the Internet has been the print and the publishing business. But what threatened to be a slow roll of a snowball (obviously to be replaced with new ways of consuming and disseminating information) has taken the form of a rapidly growing avalanche after digitized books and the digital book reader (the Kindle, predominantly) have become mainstream. As is to be expected, there are powerful players working to pull the rug from under the feet of the big publishing and media companies. First Google with wanting to digitize every book ever published. Amazon then came with the Kindle that cut out printing costs from the value chain and make books much more affordable for end-consumers. Of course, the elimination of the printing, warehousing and the physical distribution process would mean massive job-cuts in the big publishing and printing houses, not to mention a necessary shrinking in the margins retained by the publisher from the printing price of the book.

An interesting article in the New Yorker talks about the demise of publishing at the hands of the digital giants in more detail. Link here Amazon, Apple and Google are the big digital players jockeying for position in this market. A few years back, Microsoft would have been a contender as well but repeated failures to crack the consumer space (where MS does not have a monopolist advantage) has resulted in a little more of circumspection.


Leigh Russell said...

I'm afraid I'm part of the dinosaur age, as my crime thrillers are published by a traditional publishing house. Like you, I am watching the rapid evolution with interest, but from inside the eye of the storm. It threatens to be a rocky ride, but that's nothing new!

Krish Swamy said...

Leigh, it is great to have an author's perspective here. Curious as to what an author feels, seeing all of this evolve. From an ability to reach a wider audience (not necessarily only sell more books), earn enough royalty payments, moving into the electronic medium, do you see the emergence of Apple/ Amazon/ Google (and the diminishing importance of traditional publishing houses) as Good/ Bad/ Neutral?

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