Print Publishers—Extinction May Be Imminent
The reading environment has changed so rapidly in the past decade that publishers have been forced to rewrite their stories or quickly expire. The past year alone has sent traditional publishers reeling, scrambling for the next move.
Since Gutenberg industrialized the written word for the western world in 1450, adaptation has been the norm, and current publishers must learn the new next step through experimentation.
The evolution of traditional publishers is yet to come. The eReader and eBook are innovations from the realm of technology, not publishing, and how the publishers respond is yet to be seen.
Right now, as Suw Charman-Anderson of Forbes points out, the publishers have an intricate problem, which will be resolved, not “by relying on expert opinion, but ... using trial and error. Not just a ‘fling mud at the wall and see what sticks’ kind of trial and error, though, but something smarter, where failure is survivable and success recognizable.” She makes an astute analysis here by putting the problem in the context of science and business management.
Charman-Anderson suggests an organic, evolutionary approach on the part of publishers, but the industry’s adaptations are reactionary rather than progressive, and natural selection is deleting the slow changes, rejecting them. She describes these mutations of publishers as “incremental”—slow, meandering efforts. The publishers are not yet fit for survival.
June of 2012 illustrates the misguided attempts of many publishers to adapt, as Penguin jumped on the bandwagon of companies headed away from libraries and free lending. Penguin made this move after the American Association of Publishers reported that eBook sales had soared above hardcover print for the first time in history, remarkable as the first shift away from paper print since Gutenberg.Continued on the next page