Fast forward 20 years and the scale economic model is falling apart for trade publishing. So effective at applying scale to accounting, manufacturing, management, production and other overhead, it is ironic that in the internet world everyone now has access to similar scale benefits. Publishing companies now realize they have achieved scale advantages in the wrong functions. Scale advantage in editorial, marketing, promotion, and content management is almost non-existent to the degree that will ensure competitive advantage, yet these are the functions important to future success. (As an isolated example, I would argue that authonomy.com by Harpercollins represents an attempt to build scale into the editorial process).
The folks at Nine Shift have been consistently brilliant at describing both the problems and their root causes in society. Their book is a great read and I think their solutions sensible:
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Industrial Age, and thus its components, are in decline. Here’s an example. The government is funding construction or rebuilding of 10,000 highways, yet driving is in decline. And since society does not really understand the Information Age, we are not “full speed” in the Information Age either.
I’ve had a soft spot for Smashwords since it launched. This is quite the milestone!
Traditional publishers have always been challenged to predict which books will become commercial successes. They acquire books they think they can sell. In my view, the Achilles heel of traditional publishers is their myopic fixation on commercial potential. Sure, they have businesses to run, and Manhattan sky rise rents to pay. And yes, they employ brilliant and generous people who are passionate about books. Yet because they’re running businesses limited by decades-old business models and cost structures, they’re not able to take risks on every author. Nor do they want to.
I created Smashwords so I could take a risk on every author, including the author who writes for an audience of one. Because our platform is self-serve and extremely automated, we enjoy a low cost structure that enables this risk-taking, and also allows us to return up to 85% of all net sales back to the author or publisher.
A great and well thought out response to the hyped news that reading on the ipad and kindle has been shown to be slower!
Carrying an iPad or Kindle, I can read many things in many formats, all on the same device. I may read marginally more slowly for extended passages, but I’ll probably do more reading overall on one of these devices, especially if I’m traveling, busy, or shifting settings. Having recently spent a vacation outside the US, the Kindle’s international delivery of books allowed me to purchase two new books while traveling — books I never would have found locally. I read more because of this. I could acquire these books without adding to my luggage. I paid less than for physical books. Does the fact upset me that, on average, I might read 100 e-pages while you read 110 in print? Good luck keeping up with me if I’m reading while you’re out shopping in a foreign country for an English-language book — or waiting for your printed book to ship.
I suspect that Black Swan author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb would agree with the possibility described in this article!
In the United States, Hachette doesn’t have quite the same market share. But it performs better than any of the other houses because of the strengths of the Patterson and Meyer publishing franchises. As secular changes batter the industry overall, Hachette may benefit from its more efficient publishing operations—few titles that generate more sales and greater profits—to become the only vibrant, healthy publishing house.