Reading three posts recently brought some ideas together with great clarity for me yesterday. I’ve been too busy to blog about them so I’m taking the option now.
One was by Joe Wikert on his blog Joe Wikert’s Book Publisher and eContent Blog he touched on something I have mentioned before, the price/value equation of e-books. His post is a very good read and raises questions about the ability of publishers to make money on E_Books. He shows how my reaction is typical but unfair on Publishers who do not gain as much from e-books as we might first assume.
Both of the others are by Richard Charkin , the most recent of which he Titles May Day Musings 2 and paints a harsh life for publishers. Just to give you a flavour:
Meanwhile we have price deflation, higher author costs, higher energy costs, higher technology and innovation costs, shorter print runs, more competitive media for spend and leisure time.
Something has to give.
I tend to agree with Mr. Charkin about the pressures. On the other hand it is hard to take him totally on the level when he says in another post about MacMillan’s Indian operations:
We now have more than 3000 people in Macmillan India spread over I don’t know how many offices and operations (well over fifty anyway). Our first quarter closed with sales 30% ahead of the previous year and there is plenty more growth to come – from local publishing, from imports of books from all round the world which feed the intellectual curiosity of a rapidly growing educated middle class, from services developed to help other publishers benefit from the high-quality labour force available, and from innovation.
What clicked with me is that I could see where the value for publishers that Joe Wikert is concerned about arises. It is in MacMillan India as Richard Charkin and MacMillan has discovered. The “Something” that gives is labour. Editors, Proof-Readers, Designers, Copy-Editors and Freelancers give. Not necessarily freely but their work is sent to India or somewhere else and done at a fraction of the cost. (I am not suggesting that MacMillan has laid off workers and sent work to India, I have no idea how much work is being outsourced internally, merely that the logical move is to shift these functions).
Now in a business sense I am not entirely opposed to the notion. If a company can profit from working this way then why not but I do have to wonder where it ends. There are few functions that cannot be off-shored in this way except hopefully commissioning. If the barriers to entry come don further and offerings like LuLu.com do seem to be dragging them down maybe even that will be a thing of the past (although in general face to face meetings are important in commissioning titles).
The opening up of publishing and media by new technology threatens a wide swathe of educated editors and publishing talent, I am beginning to wonder if this generation is the last to see Publishing as a “Glamour” career and whether in fact we will see for all intents and purposes the Death of the Editor?