The demise of publishers – really?

19 Jan

Matt Shatz, head of strategic content relations for Nokia, has spoken out about the future of publishing houses. The former Vice President has speculated that publishers are being squeezed out of the market.

Shatz’s key concern is whether or not authors really need publishers. As publishers are slow to respond to the eBook phenomenon, and digitisation makes it easier for authors to ‘do it yourself’, are the publishers, in effect, making themselves redundant?

For me, this article certainly has many valid points, and I certainly can’t argue with the idea. However, to say that publishers may become a thing of the past, because of the advantages that the Internet now offers, is short-sighted.

Shatz’s surmised: “In short, I don’t think publishers will figure all this out in time, which is why retailers will dominate the customer relationships in the future.”

I agree that publishers have much to learn. They need to get up to speed with e-publishing and e-marketing. They need to adapt and grow, as the music industry did several years back. Most importantly, they need to learn the benefits of this new market.

Publishers do not just put books on shelves; they make the books. They do not just slap some words between a cover. Editing, proof reading, design, and typesetting – the publishers polish the work and make it shine, something many self-publishers have failed to do.

Scaling down of business, smaller advances, and minimising marketing budgets according to Shatz are proof that publishers are in decline. Yet, how is this any different to any other business at this time? I thought that was to be expected in a ‘recession’.  I can understand that online retailers would have an effect on the publishers, primarily because the larger high street retailers, such as Waterstones, are struggling in the current market. Yet, publishers supply the online retailers too.

If we are talking about authors turning their backs on publishers, I don’t see this either. Many people I speak to who have self-published, have either done it because they were not successful in securing a publishing deal, or, they have re-published out of print books. Yes, there are exceptions, but most writers would still prefer a publisher.

Helen Smith, author of Alison Wonderland, has participated in both forms of publishing: “My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I would recommend it to anyone else in my position (i.e. with out-of-print books) – though if someone wants a career as an author, I would always recommend finding an agent and a publisher before going it alone.”

Is the end of publishing just the thought of the week? Or a one-sided argument? To me, speculating over negative business has never helped anything. Yes, there are and will continue to be changes in the industry; many will lose out if they don’t start looking ahead.

But is this the demise of publishers? Not likely.

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One Response to “The demise of publishers – really?”

  1. Carol Hoare January 20, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Jack of all trades – master of none???

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