It is a fascinating time to be in the business of publishing with many new opportunities opening up.
These are early days in the uptake of eBooks, and it still remains to be seen how this technology will ultimately impact on the form and nature of writing, itself now re-cast as readable content.
ePublishing is a new frontier as the industries of language meet the revolution of internet technology. As the written word develops new forms of dissemination its very nature may be changed. With rival companies producing competing formats, newspaper, magazine and book publishers will evolve or die.
Amazon’s groundbreaking Kindle, Apple creating the tablet market with the iPad plus iBooks, and a growing field of competition from the Barnes and Noble Nook to Sony’s eReader, with multiple Android and Windows tablets all vieing for a piece of this significant, growing electronic readership. At the moment it seems that more availability of literature and journalism has boosted long form reading, despite the so-called bitesize culture which modern media is supposed to promulgate.
A large, global eReadership has had an impact also on authors. The internet is a world of text as much as it is of code. The technology also facilitates contact with fans, opportunities for live writers workshops and discussion groups, new ways to make a living. Self-publishing has gained respectability because some authors made it work and made millions. Articulate and tech-savvy, writers are well able to self-publish and self-promote using the internet, using social networks to put together sophisticated cross-media marketing campaigns previously unaffordable to anyone without a PR company, a contract or personal wealth.
We are seeing the beginning of the same revolution which already hit the various music industries. Just as audio files replaced CDs and forced a huge shakeup in the way the recording industry works, big, traditional book publishing houses will not be needed for warehousing and distribution of physical objects, and the means of production and distribution is now available to the creators, who for the first time do not require paper, printing press or transport. Bookshops are already being wiped out by Amazon, but the amount of writing available, and the diversity, if not the quality, has increased, and this is likely to continue as the barriers to gaining readerships fall and more would-be authors enter the market.
In the short to to medium term, publishers, embedded in old media, still control the oxygen of publicity and authors who maintain good relationships with them are far more likely to become successful. New kinds of publishing houses are emerging however, whose start point is low overheads, fast turnaround, and the kind of flexibility that oil tanker-sized corporations do not have.