A Democracy of Publishing

GatekeeperThe picture at right symbolizes the traditional world of publishing – controlled by gatekeepers jealously guarding access to scarce editorial, production and marketing resources.  But the explosion of books pouring from publishing services such as Lulu, Blurb and iUniverse portends a new, more open world of publishing.  There seems to be an almost insatiable urge to publish.  And the effects of technology driven long tail economics is creating a new kind of publishing industry that will support a much wider range of product choices than in the past.  

The growth in independent publishers over the last 50+ years has been dramatic, as these statistics published by Dan Poynter illustrate.

1947: 357 publishers
1973: 3,000 publishers
1980: 12,000 Publishers
1994: 52,847 publishers
2003: 73,000+
2005: 89,000+

Today, over 78% of all titles now come from independent publishers.  

Just as Amazon and other online booksellers have created bookstores with essentially unlimited shelf space, print on demand and self publishing services makes it easy for anyone to publish a book in small quantities at low cost.  Many offer in-house or third party services to assist authors with cover design, interior design and content / copy editing.  This is the first step toward the democratization of the book production.  The availability of low cost marketing and promotion techniques via the web allows independent publishers to ramp up book sales outside of the traditional bookstore channel.  This represents a major step forward in the democritization of book marketing.   The last leg of the journey to a fully open publishing model could be indicated by the launch of the Espresso Book Machine from On Demand Books LLC – a system which can bind and print a book in 5-7 minutes.  This may eliminate the overhead of inventory and distribution altogether.  The book remains digital all the way to the point of sale.  One could imagine bookstores downloading, binding and printing a book while the customer has a latte.   The infinite bookshelf comes to your local bricks and mortar bookstore. 

Technology will no doubt create new opportunities in book publishing.  This is why I am writing this blog.  I am a bibliophile and a technology optimist.  Here is my belief about the future of one of mankind’s most amazing and durable inventions:  As the democratization of publishing progresses, prepare for a renaissance in book writing, publishing and reading. 

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