Has Digital Saved the Book Publishing Industry?

Just about two years ago, Colin Robinson, founder of OR Books, wrote an article in The Guardian highlighting the 10 ways we could save the publishing industry. Since this article was published, the world of publishing has changed quite a bit.

As technology has advanced, it has created an entirely new world of opportunities for publishers outside of those listed below. Innovation over the past 24 months has offered us so many new avenues, including these:

  • The introduction of new operating systems, like Windows8
  • Large-scale growth in the phablet market
  • New ways to target and retarget readers
  • Social reading, writing, and sharing has become mainstream
  • Subscription services have been introduced

When I took the time to revisit Robinson’s list, I was pleased to see that for the most part, his mandates for success have, in fact, been implemented. Some of them can even take credit for propelling the publishing business to new heights. A few have taken different turns based on the manner in which our world continues to evolve. Here is his list with a bit of added commentary.

Ten things we can do to save the book publishing industry:

1. Publish for Readers, Not Authors: Publishers Must Sell Direct

This is something we are starting to see publishers consider and test. Historically, book publishers have not created large consumer databases for the publishing house. With print-to-screen proving to be such a hot trend, we will want to keep an eye on how this plays out.

2. Publish More Electively

The continued growth and success of NOOK Press and KDP as independent digital publishing platforms suggests that more selective publishing might not be the answer in today’s world. Add onto this that the demand for social sharing and collective reading and the demand for user-generated and self-published content is higher than ever, and showing no signs of stopping. This point might need to be reconsidered.

3. Focus on Editing and Design

4. Hold No Stock

5. Publish Fast

6. Keep Prices High

This suggestion works well for the traditional publishing houses. And, as the agent cased sales model continues to be debated, this will continue to be a hot topic. However, for the independent authors and social sites, the high-price model can be a deterrent. Many self-publishing authors have become successful breaking into the market at a lower price point.

7. Hand-Sell on the Internet

8. Sell Globally

9. Use Real-Time Information

10. Recognize the Complexity of Publishing Choice

It’s always interesting to reflect on our past plans, strategies, and insights. Where do you think the publishing world should or will go next? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. An update from my last column: Thanks to all of the awareness and support for 16-year-old Qunicy MacShane, I am thrilled to report that her Kickstarter campaign has been fully funded. Good luck to her on her Nancy Drew game and kudos to Simon and Schuster for supporting such an innovative effort.

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