may 20

Your Medium Is Dying (No, Not That One)

Easiest way to get me talking bullshit: start a conversation about the economics of book publishing. This isn't the place to give my speech about the demise of the industry (YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE), but it's worth pointing to this random Forbes essay, How Amazon Could Change Publishing. I disagree with the conclusion -- I don't think Amazon is going to knock out the book publisher any more than iTunes knocked out the record label. But it does lay out some of the broken economics. (Short version of my rant: the internet age will catch up with book publishing, not in a technological sense, as this essay suggests, but in a philosophical sense. Publishing will be forced to adopt a more egalitarian meritocracy. Too many books lose money; authors aren't accurately rewarded on sales; this model can't continue.)


I'm cool with new models of publishing but the whole digital book Amazon seems desperate to get going is just going to write out full time novel writing full stop.

And no one seems to have noticed they call the thing KINDLE.. helllo! dictionary definition - to light or set on fire. i.e. Amazon is one fell swoop advocates book burning!

Put that in a wired article and smoke it!

posted by dave at 6:34 AM on May 20, 2008

The article didn't mention that Amazon discounts books about 10%, meaning that everybody's cut gets diminished. I work for a company that creates educational books for the petroleum industry - we prefer to sell books directly and we don't like Amazon.

And in order to cut out the middleman, Amazon would have to become that middleman itself, employing book editors, designers, printers, etc. Their overheads will be huge. I don't think it'll go that way unless everyone in the world decides to buy a Kindle and give up their printed books.

And who would want to do that? They smell so good.

posted by Amanda at 10:00 AM on May 20, 2008

Jason Epstein's little book called "Book Business" is terrific on this front. For two reasons: 1. It's a memoir of the heyday of publishing; 2. He understands that heyday was a weird anomaly and is thinking hard about how somebody who loves books ought to operate in the 21st century.

You can get a free copy from the on-demand book printing machine (!!) at the business branch of the NYPL. Totally worth it for weirdness value alone.

But you're right in focusing on the economics, not the medium. Printed books are totally rad. Printed book publishers are ridiculous.

posted by Robin at 2:50 PM on May 20, 2008

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