You might want to check Mike Shatzkin's presentation at the BEA, or his Publishing Points series of lunchtime talks to get a feel of what's coming from a book publishers' perspective.
My feeling is that what book publishers are experiencing today with technology, newspaper publishers may very well experience in the near future. On Kindles and e-readers, book format reproduction has been a child's play.
He highlights the obvious dominance of specialized-vertical over general-horizontal publishing in the new search publication environment.
I strongly feel that he falls short in his appreciation of the consequences of the laser focused search pushed publishing. I don't feel there's room for the publisher to guide the book author any longer.
Why would an author approach a publisher, when a healthy search engine optimization of his work should suffice?
As Mike mentions, the usual publisher's marketing wares, —book clubs, newspaper reviews, magazine and newspaper ads, and others—, are too expensive or rapidly disappearing.
Nevertheless, his presentations touch on what I think are a few crucial and far reaching points, which we need to appreciate on the newspaper publishers side of the fence:
- Building or maintaining communities is at the core of it all. Well-known places will always occupy a space in our minds. People will always visit the New York Times, as well as, their local newspaper's print, online, or phone presence, to look for what's happened in their community. As a consequence, newspaper brands are relevant, and must be nourished —with likable presences in any new format, like: Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and others.
We are all in the conteNt business, and we are going to have to move into the conteXt business. The ownership in the future of eyeballs will be more important than the ownership of IP, because value moves to scarcity. This is immutable, you cannot change this. Content creation and distribution are no longer scarce. Anybody can do them. Distribution is not an issue. I can type something on my computer today, I can flip it to my website, it is distributed. Any body in the world, on the web, can get it. The problem is, will they know about it? That’s the problem. Marketing is the problem. Distribution is no longer the problem. And you’re going to do your marketing niche by niche, and nugget by nugget, and it does require scale. If you don’t have enough content, or clout in a community, you won’t be heard. If you don’t pay enough attention or put enough labor into a community, you won’t be able to command the attention of that community.
- Content creation, on the other hand, opens new doors of opportunity. Publishers must take advantage of the fact that it's been their business to know all the intricacies of how to better connect the creator to his audience. They should offer this service to those countless companies needing to show a pretty face to the world —which is better known as publishing.
Publishers also recognize creative possibilities and ideas that aren’t fully developed. As a matter of fact, publishers usually buy projects based on ideas that are not fully developed, and participate in the development of ideas. That is a very important skillset. That doesn’t go away. And the publisher is coordinating the whole range of disparate activities that are necessary to connect the creator to an audience. You know what that is, it’s putting the art in the book, it’s deciding what typeface, it’s deciding what price, it’s deciding how to market, but sometimes it’s finding a co-author for the book, or sometimes it’s finding an illustrator. So sometimes you’re actually connecting the creators with each other, as well as providing the detailed management that the creator needs. Actually, I believe, is the most important skill set of publishers is that they manage a massive amount of detail. Which the authors would very rapidly table themselves up in knots if they managed for themselves. That is the scale opportunity that publishers present, and that is not going to change. It’s actually going to be even more necessary in the web.
So, it's time you guys get out there to offer your creation and presentation wares...