Leave the middleman alone…

The readings reviewed last week make it appear open access is winning (or should win) the battle versus the mainstream publishing industry and remove barriers to access content and publishing platforms (not only related to books, but also to media, videogames, video, art, etc) in order to make them accessible to “consumers”, under the banner of freedom and the promise to reach widespread audiences.

The middleman, as publishers (of all sorts) are commonly referred, is often seen as an evil and abusive factor in the chain of production, an obstruction, an elitist judge who filter and decides who and what gets published and who/what gets not. But we have to be careful with this assumption. The fact that an author is rejected by one or more Publishers (as it happened to many great authors published today) does not mean it is a bad job (enter J.K. Rowling), but it also does not mean the middleman is wrong.

The thing is, you don’t need to beat the middleman in order to propose your own model.

For the revolutionary inclined, it seems that justice is finally being made by the availability of free -or very accessible- publishing tools and platforms for people who wish to share and create communities with common shared goals and, thus, picturing a world where every effort is aimed towards the advancement of the human race, whatever that means to each advocate of this movement.

While I love the idea of being able to, for example: write a book, code a videogame or film a video over the same topic and share them with people who may get interested in it, then create a community and develop it further. I am always suspicious about what is behind the veil of generosity that most of the platforms available get in return, in other words “What’s the catch?”. I mean, after all, examples abound about technology companies offering free services which later turned into beasts which, despite still offering their services for “free”, profit with items of more value than one could ever have imagined, name Facebook for example.

However, free/acessible publishing and content services do not seem to be trying to become the IT giant. As far as we can see, they even seem too disorganized or focused towards different and some times contradictory goals. Thus, even if an “Uber of publishing” becomes a reality, it looks like it would be a little more of a nuisance to established publishers role, yet, it can become a serious threat to the existence of published works themselves.

Why?

Because facilitating widespread publishing would definitely increase the offer for works and while this seems to be a good thing, the fact is the industry and its open access counterpart is not lacking titles but rather suffering from an oversupply of them. In contrast, lack of interest and a change in the way people consume information, has made the whole industry more elitist, less original and oriented towards specific topics.

For example, there is a lot of Harry Potter fan- fiction (love it or hate it), but as we reviewed last term, everything counts, thus, if such fan-fiction were to become a canonic part of this story, we would have to resort to some kind of “multiverse”, like those used by comic book publishers to accommodate the whole spectrum.

In essence, after some iterations, “Harry Potter” would lose its meaning, its purpose, its identity, all the values associated and given to it by its author. On the opposite side, even if all fan-fiction strictly adhered to a set of rules, respecting the base form of the novels, then each fan-work would be constrained and limited by those rules.

What publishers had to offer then? Order. The publishing, design and distribution services can surely be replaced and even automated. Someday, an AI will be capable to write you a book based on a plot, characters and story-line you provide. However, what Publishers do and have been doing for centuries is a most valuable thing: to offer order in terms of curating potentially successful stories based on their knowledge of the readers (or market if you wish), on the editing process where a writer turns an idea into a successful story, or even a great story into a widespread success, the distribution planning, the events or media to close writers and readers and finally, protecting the integrity of those works by applying IP laws.

Those services, proper of the middleman, are now being devalued in favor of an apparently egalitarian discourse that in fact, proposes to crate an “Uber of publishing” or similar, forgetting that “Uber” is a company that actually profits from the effort and resources of others without risking or offering any securities to them.

We have to be careful what we wish for.

Opening Up the Publishing Business

There is certainly the potential for self-publishing, subscription reading and internet-based custom publishers to continue to disrupt the established publishing industry– but is that such a bad thing? We have seen the ability of open sharing platforms increase visibility for authors and potential collaboration for researchers. The idea to look at Open Access (OA) as a business model for mainstream book publishing is extremely exciting. Let’s consider what this business model is and how it could be applied beyond OA across the traditional publishing industry.

To begin, we need to remember that “Open Access” in and of itself is not an income model, but a distribution model. However, when a publisher applies the principles of an OA distribution system, their income models must naturally adjust in order to support it. A scholarly publication that qualifies as OA either means that:

  • copyright holders of a work grant free and perpetual use of a work in any digital medium, subject to correct attribution to the original authorship; or
  • a complete work can be distributed and displayed electronically in an online repository that is supported by an academic, scholarly or government agency.

The foundation of OA is that community standard, not copyright law, holds users accountable in adhering to proper attribution and responsible use. The web is, of course, rife with copyright infringement– but as I argued in week 4, that infringement is only a matter of perspective based on one’s adaption of the Commons. OA has paved a way for work produced in the Commons to not only be protected, legally and morally, but to also be stable financially.

Figure 1: Past and Current business models used in OA (screenshot from the OAD).

The Open Access Directory (OAD)  breaks down current revenue sources and business models used by OA Journals. As we can see in the image (figure 1), each funding model is different and would be applicable to different target audience segments. The important thing to remember here is that revenue models need to be looked at holistically, not one-size-fits all, and not-one-stream-pays-for-all. At the moment, in traditional book publishing, profits pretty much only come from sales revenue. As we keenly experienced in the Book Project, after royalties, sales & distribution, marketing and production fees, there really isn’t all that much left for the publisher. OA, on the other hand, is clearly an agile system that takes into account the ever-changing landscape of the web and the business models that have developed there. The OAD readily admits that not all models they’ve listed worked out, but that’s the point: the process has been iterative and has evolved from its mistakes.

Why should legacy publishing care about OA? If these corporations have their eyes open and look at scholarly OA Journals as a case study, they should see some parallels and a compelling business scenario. As Juan mentioned in our discussion last week, both book publishing and scholarly publishing are ruled by “Big 5” corporate leaders, who up to this point dictate the market. They also both, importantly, carry a kind of brand name legitimacy that means both authors and researchers are compelled to submit in order to gain recognition (bestsellers in literature’s case, tenure in academia’s) for their work. But I would argue this paradigm is crumbling under the weight of Open Access Journals, and in the literary world, self-publishing platforms. If book publishers want to stay competitive, they must look at a collection of solutions that more often than not means opening up.

It tends to be that an appeal based on revenue growth garners more attention than appealing on more idealistic terms like “for the good of the commons” or the “growth of creativity”. It’s difficult to convince entrenched industries of that correlation.  Perhaps we don’t really need to worry if behemoths like the Big 5 don’t radically change their models. Perhaps they won’t, or not quickly enough. This means, however, they stand at risk against e-commerce models that are currently growing, or have yet to emerge. At this point it’s important for mid- and small- and emerging publishers to look to OA and consider the ways in which their practice can operate on openness, be built with agility in mind, and still be profitable. 

“Intelligence is the Ability to Adapt to Change”

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

While trying to think of an adjective for a business model that favours the customer, I came up with “consumer-focused” and immediately stopped and thought to myself “wait, aren’t we, as publishers, nothing if not consumer-focused?” That adjective made me reflect on how, no matter the model, the goal is always to put a product into the world that people will like, be it through traditional publishing, self-publishing, ebook publishing, or some sort of hybrid of any of those mixed together. With that in mind, I realized that, although the popular model may be shifting, we as publishers don’t have to be upset about it, as long as we keep up.

Many of the individual jobs that are done by traditional publishers can be done by freelancers, and a self-publishing author is already free to hire these freelancers herself. Although self-publishing is on the rise, I think the process of hiring these freelancers is perhaps what is keeping it from overpowering the traditional publishers altogether. Authors are noticing that it takes work to publish a book: work that they may not want to do all by themselves. In Ros Barber’s article “For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way” the author says “If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living.” From this point of view, traditional publishing looks pretty good! They will take care of all the tricky stuff for you while you get to focus on writing. Even though there are technologies that allow you to format your book’s interior to cater to the requirements of an ebook, for example, there are a lot of pieces that go into the publishing puzzle, and so far, traditional publishing is the best place to get them in one neat package.

While I don’t think traditional publishing is going away just yet, I think the industry could stand to learn a little more from those who decide not to use this system. Currently, the “gatekeepers” to publishing (publishers, book prize committee members, etc.) are a lot of privileged people (male people, white people, straight people, etc.) which means those getting published are people like them. I believe that some people choosing not to use traditional publishing are those who have traditionally had their voices quieted: a phenomenon which is still happening in traditional publishing today. Minorities are underrepresented in the industry, although I am optimistic about seeing more and more representation in the years to come. If the current gatekeepers fall to more consumer-accessible business models, I predict far more minorities to flood the system, allowing more voices to be heard and more opinions to be brought to light. Even if everyone eventually decides that they need publishers and we end up restructuring again, sometime down the road, we will have at least diluted the privilege pool a little bit more than it is now.

Traditional publishing isn’t going away, but I don’t think new publishing models are going to back down either. The most likely scenario is that publishers will adapt to fit into these new models, and make these new models fit into them. The industry is always growing, changing, and adapting. There is no reason that publishers shouldn’t continue adapting right along with it.

The commoditisation of publishing represents an opportunity, not a threat

The commoditisation of publishing production methods is making it easier for writers to publish themselves, and in some ways for readers to access that content. In “Creating the Uber of Publishing: How Tablo, Draft2Digital and Bookfunnel Can Team up to Fix What’s Broken in Their Industry,” Harrison Kitteridge argues:

Full vertical integration of publishing is inevitable, and when the consumer-facing app that effectively marries the Wattpad and Kindle Direct Publishing models achieves scale, many traditional publishing companies will be caught out, and some will fail.

Kitteridge thinks that Wattpad, an app that allows writers to post their own “books” (in what my partner pointed out is a somewhat blog-like format), is particularly well-positioned to “guide writers who are already connected to a sizeable audience through the self-publishing process and [take] a cut.” She points out that this is possible because “much of the work of publishing is so highly commoditised and there’s virtually no cost of entry any more. “

This week our class is taking a close look at what this means for the publishing business. Aleena and Taylor put it this way: “Internet business models for publishing are trending toward favoring the consumer more and more by lowering barriers to access to both publishing platforms and content. Are these business models inherently detrimental to the publishing business?”

I think many of us have similar feelings about this, but the way we answer the question can depend on what conception of the publishing industry we have in mind. If  we wanted to measure to what extent the commoditisation of production methods constitutes a threat to traditional print publishing, we would need to know to what extent these commoditised publishing platforms (such as Wattpad or its future incarnation that Kitteridge predicts) are cannibalizing traditional book sales. We would need to see data showing whether the people using Wattpad to access content are doing so instead of, or as well as, buying print books; and whether the audience consuming media produced using these new methods is the same audience as the one that buys print media. Even if the audience is the same, it’s not necessarily the case that the need being filled by traditional publishing is the same as the need being filled by these new platforms.

We might be better placed to answer the question if we take a broader conception of the publishing industry, and think of it as encompassing all those involved in the project of “making public.” This allows us to step outside of our point of view and consider the positions of the writer and the consumer, as well as the publisher. From that perspective we can see that no given technology is inherently bad for the industry broadly conceived. From that perspective, the availability of commoditised publishing platforms could be a very helpful development for all involved.

In an October 2017 episode of the podcast a16z, the founder of O’Reilly Media Tim O’Reilly talks about a pattern he observed in the antitrust case against IBM. He says he’s seen

companies which really are platform technologies that enable a whole ecosystem decide at some point to start competing with their ecosystem because there’s just not enough to go around. And at that point they screw up; the ecosystem starts to fall apart, government turns against them, people turn against them.It’s so amazing to see even idealistic companies forget that an ecosystem has to work for all of its participants: you can’t just think about yourself, you can’t just think about users, you actually have to think about your suppliers as well. And if you start competing with them […] the entrepreneurs who are making the services that your ecosystem depends on, go look for one that’s more friendly.

O’Reilly was talking about big corporations, not publishing houses; but the caution against “competing with your ecosystem” struck me as important for publishers to recognize. If we decide that commoditisation of publishing services, which makes things easier for writers and readers, is detrimental to the publishing industry, we put ourselves in a position where we are fighting the ecosystem, fighting readers and writers. Not only that, we are saying that writer and readers are not a part of the publishing industry at all.

Looking at commoditisation more neutrally, I wondered: What is driving commoditization? What problem is it solving? And are publishers in any position to make ourselves relevant to that solution? Being as we are at the beginning of this chapter of our careers, we can take the perspective that it is an opportunity, not a detriment.

One small example of the problems it is solving is the problem for writers of getting accepted by a publishing house in order to have their work made public. Platforms that facilitate self-publishing solve that one problem. And yes, by self-publishing some authors forego professional editing, marketing, design and promotion services; but most of them would never have had a chance at those things anyway. They would have ended up on the “slush pile” (a term I use with respect). Maybe it will be useful for publishers to think of commoditisation as enabling the slush pile to organize itself, to make itself accessible, not just to readers, but to traditional publishers. We can now see how readers respond to a book by seeing how much positive feedback it has received on services like Wattpad, which will help us decide which titles and authors deserve our attention.

If we want to adapt to this new reality, I think publishers will need to embrace these technologies, update their business models, and reassess what services they should be providing; what services readers and writers will need most moving forward. What exactly might this look like? There aren’t a lot of wild success stories to list as examples here. Ebook subscription models like Oyster and Scribd, before they closed down, do illustrate the kind of approach I have in mind. While ebook subscription worked, HarperCollins’ CEO said that it was “very successful in really merchandising and mining the backlist.” 

Why did Oyster and Scribd go south? Andrew Albanese and Jim Milliot cite speculations that “the cost of paying for their subscribers’ reading consumption [was] simply exceeding the revenue brought in from monthly subscription fees.” They also point out that “Scribd (which, like Oyster, pays publishers their full retail cut for books read by subscribers) was forced to cut romance and erotica offerings, because romance fans—notoriously voracious readers—were apparently reading far more than expected, driving up Scribd’s payments.” If this is the case, it’s clear that the appetite for this service was there, and it did solve a problem for readers; it was the details of the business model that needed to be worked out.

The important thing is that while it worked, ebook subscription solved problems for different parts of the ecosystem: the reader who wanted convenient access to many books, and the publisher who needed to monetize their backlist. This is the kind of thinking I am trying to encourage in myself in order to understand how to take advantage of the challenges and opportunities provided by commoditisation.

 

Publishing Online: Disruptive but in a Good Way

Online business models (or at least an online portion of a business model) are fast becoming an almost-requirement for most businesses in a majority of industries. Publishing, as it happens, is one of the most naturally-attuned industries to acclimatize to the digital revolution—the act of it, but unfortunately not the business models surrounding it. The act of publishing has become so accessible and easy, that creating a business out of it can seem incredibly daunting and nigh impossible. Because if “anyone” can do it, where is your monopoly, and how do you make money off of it?

Absolutely the advent of the internet has greatly disrupted publishing as it once was, but I do not think in a detrimental way. It has reinvented how a vast majority of publishing—the making public of things—is done, has changed a lot about how distribution and publicity is approached, and even affected the kind of content consumed. But I think, in time as society comes to terms with new technologies, it will only prove to be beneficial, so long as we do not approach the measure of such as directly related to vast monetary gain and world-dominance in an infinitely, kaleidoscopically niche industry.

The accessibility of digital publishing has created many platforms of new ways for sharing vast amounts of content, as immediately or delayed as the content publisher desires. But this new flex in content distribution comes at quite a literal cost: revenue.

In the short term it may seem like a detriment, but in the long term, I think new business styles that better reflect our online ecosystem will be found/developed (like they already are). And publishers should be fully embracing this new modality in order to have an open mind in thinking how to make it work, so that new ways of generating that necessary revenue can be found.

Online Publishing and the Quest for Diverse Books

Internet business models are in general trending towards removing the space between the creator and the consumer. The complex filtration systems of traditional business models are disappearing and there is a profound increase in creators only going through a single intermediary, such as an online hosting platform, to reach their intended audience. This calls in to question the value of industries such as the publishing industry that function to filter and ideally refine content from authors before it eventually makes its way to the reader. This new business model is potentially detrimental because it will require authors to have capital in order to publish their books. I believe that the publishing industry must put an emphasis on publishing diverse and innovative books in order to continue to stay relevant within this changing market.

Harrison Kitteridge envisions in their article “Creating the Uber of Publishing” a future where books will be almost entirely self published eBooks and made available through a large platform. Kitteridge goes on to explain that these self published authors will hire freelance editors, designers, and other professionals to oversee tasks that were traditionally done within publishing houses. This model currently exists within the publishing industry and is sometimes referred to as “custom publishing” or “vanity publishing”. The primary difference between traditional publishing and this new model is that the author would retain the copyright and any money from sales would go exclusively to them (instead of earning royalties). This new model would also shift the risk of publishing books from the publishers (who are now all hypothetically working freelance) onto the author. This business model is problematic because the authors that can afford to take on this risk as well as pay freelance professionals are people with expendable income. Traditional publishing allows for writers from all backgrounds to be potentially published, but this new model means that only the wealthy can afford to print their books. The publishing industry is already notorious for its lack of diversity and this new business model would potentially exacerbate that.

When you consider the types of books that are produced by custom publishers it is evident that you need to have capital in order to have your book be produced. Custom publishers take on a great deal of work from corporate clients wanting to publish a book about their company to use as a marketing tool. Similarly during my time working at McNally there was a local self published author who was producing a series of picture books but had to stop because she could no longer afford the expenses. This is very similar to what Anil Dash discusses in his article “Tech and the Fake Market tactic” and how the internet went from being a free space that anyone could join on equal playing ground to becoming a place where only people with a considerable amount of capital can afford to have their content standout within the crowded market space. While this is not a perfect parallel it is worth considering how the internet is not a meritocracy and that money controls a lot of what happens in online spaces.

Kitteridge’s predicted future for the production of books would see the end of publishers being “gate keepers” and instead the ability for the authors to pay will become the new barrier to access. If the overall goal is for high quality books that reflect the diversity of readers then neither of these models are perfect however I am more inclined to believe that publishing companies that exist not just to make money but because of passion projects are far more likely to produce these books than individual authors trying to standout in a crowded marketplace where you have to pay to play at the highest level.

Patreon Doesn’t Need to be Life or Death to Contribute to Life

Asking the question “Are these business models inherently detrimental to the publishing business?” is a leading question layered with bias. We—MPub students—are here because we want to be publishers or work in the publishing industry in some way, so of course we’re biased to want things to be easier for publishers. We want higher prices so we can better meet our bottom line, but we also want more readers so we can sell more books. Unfortunately, the two do not often come hand-in-hand. We have to find that delicate balance between price (and other forms of accessibility, such as format and availability) and number of sales.

I’ve focused most of my reading responses this semester on the publisher’s perspective—again, because I’m here to become a publisher. However, this week I would like to focus on the individual creator’s perspective (which, honestly, is kind of the same thing from the point of view of my future business). Specifically, I want to talk about the subscription model and the use of platforms such as Patreon.

In December, Brent Knepper wrote an article called “No One Makes a Living on Patreon,” and while his facts may be right and his argument in the right place, I disagree with his fundamental point that people should be able to make a living full-time from Patreon or other platforms like Patreon. The tone of his article appears to say that if you can’t make a full-time living wage on Patreon, what’s the point? It seems to say that Patreon is falsely advertising how creators use its platform to make money from their art (whatever form that art might take). He states that only 2% of creators on Patreon are making over minimum wage on a calculation of full-time hours, which is likely true, but this is not the only number that should be taken into account.

He brings up an example of a creator who works in retail part-time and spends about 20-25 hours a week working on her Patreon creations and earns about $200 a month from patrons. That $200 is not enough to live on, and it’s unfortunate that she only makes $8-10 per hour for her art, but there are two points that Knepper seems to be missing in his own example: you have to start from somewhere and this is not her only form of income.

While she may only be making $200 per month right now, Knepper doesn’t tell us how long her Patreon account has been active or how much work she puts into marketing her account. It takes work to build and maintain a subscriber base, so if her account is relatively new she hasn’t had the time to build a larger subscriber base yet and she might get there. (I’d also like to note that while Knepper has a link on this creator’s name in the article, it leads to her Twitter account not her Patreon account.)

Knepper mentions that this creator also works part-time, but he seems to dismiss that as irrelevant to the topic at hand. It’s not irrelevant. Most creators on Patreon are not working on their Patreon content full-time. They have other projects, jobs, and sources of income. They might sell their prints at conventions or work a part-time (or full-time) job in something unrelated to their art. Regardless of what their other source of income is, it is income, and their Patreon account is meant to supplement that income and provide a venue to share and promote their art. Most creators have their lowest subscriber levels at $1-5, which is definitely affordable for anybody who wishes to subscribe, and they (generally) get access to most of the work the creator posts even at that low level. This subscriber model shows that making money is not the main goal for the creator, but it’s nice to “tip the artist”—a phrase that many creators use for their lowest subscriber level.

We don’t know if this artist has other sources of income based on her art. She could be selling her comics at conventions or on another platform like Etsy. Of course, I wish that every creator on Patreon was making more than $200 per month, but the creator will only get so much for what they put into it and we can’t blame Patreon as a platform for creators not making a full-time living wage.

“Innovation-first” should be the publisher’s business model

In a post titled Why There’s No Innovation In The Publishing Industry, Nate Hoffelder, founder of digital publishing news blog, The Digital Reader, speaks about “the general level of arch-conservatism that infests book publishing.” The industry, says Hoffelder, “never met a new idea that it didn’t try to smother at birth.” Ouch! While that may be a tad too harsh, that the book publishing industry needs to do some soul-searching and innovate is an accepted fact. ‘Adapt or die’ has been the mantra whenever new ideas have threatened the old guard, and it’s this response that the industry needs to have when faced with the threat from consumer-centric apps like Wattpad and Tablo.

Like magazine publishing, which has increasingly transitioned to a digital-first or social-first business model to stay afloat, book publishers need to not just go digital, but also find innovative ways in which to do so. Print book publishers did go digital, in that they started offering ebooks, but there has been very little innovation beyond that. In an interview just last month, the CEO of Hachette, Arnaud Nourry said, “The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience. We, as publishers, have not done a great job going digital. We’ve tried. We’ve tried enhanced or enriched ebooks – didn’t work. We’ve tried apps, websites with our content – we have one or two successes among a hundred failures. I’m talking about the entire industry. We’ve not done very well.” The rise and popularity of apps like Wattpad, Tablo, Draft2Digital, Bookfunnel, etc. can be attributed to such circumstances: the inability of the print book publishing to innovate and the limitations of the ebook format. It would be easy to vilify “consumer-facing” apps as sounding the death knell for traditional publishing, but if one thinks about it, these apps were born out of a deficit the old industry could not fulfill. I see them as an evolution of the print book industry, rather than a detriment. Indeed, even these newfangled applications are not invincible. One need only read Harrison Kitteridge’s lengthy spiel to know about that. While he concedes that “author-services is a burgeoning and incredibly lucrative consequence of the self-publishing movement,” he also maintains that “no one has really managed to scale the model.” According to him, it’s when someone finds a way to marry and scale Wattpad and Kindle Direct Publishing that the traditional book publishing industry will truly be on shaky ground.

Instead of waiting for the inevitable, which may or may not (but likely will) happen, book publishers need to pursue collaborative innovation with the people that are into the “consumer-facing” and author-services digital businesses. These companies – by virtue of being outside the print publishing setup – can think out of the box and explore ways of sustaining the business. Another way the book industry can do this, many think, is by “embracing a startup mindset”. This would involve having a dedicated team that, instead of being overwhelmed by the daily demands of book production, does nothing but research and development, an aspect many traditional book publishers don’t invest in, but which can actually find ways to take the industry into newer, fresher directions. Bestselling author James Patterson tinkered with the novel by coming up with “bookshots”: 150-paged shorter novels. Similarly, cookbooks have been reinvented by having electronic versions which feature grocery lists, timers and videos. Of course, social media is a behemoth publishers can’t afford to ignore. Until and unless they generate content that is interactive and participatory, publishers are going to have a tough time riding the crest of digital publishing. To that end, may be publishers ought to think about accepting and integrating not just the Ubers of publishing but also potentially develop a Facebook for publishing too.

Break Down the Barriers

As we know quite well by now, publishing has traditionally had some very high barriers to entry. You had to be the right person, you had to know the right people, and you had to have the luxury of being able to spend your time writing (a room of your own, if you will). And even after all of this, there were still (and still are) gatekeepers deciding if your work was worthy enough to be published.

On one hand, while the barriers are not as high as they once were, they are still a major issue in publishing today, as we discussed in the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit. But as we talked about in class, the advent of online business models has also helped to knock many of these barriers down. The space that was once reserved for a select few is now a space where everyone can be an author, and as such it is easier to access publishing platforms. By extension, if you are a consumer, it is also easier to access this abundance of content.

These new models are not inherently detrimental to the publishing business; rather, the publishing industry makes it appear so by remaining stagnant. Both models of publishing have the same goal (to publish books and profit), but they have different ways of meeting that goal. They are in the same business, but have different ways of doing business.

The publishing business model cannot just “go online” and assume that’s enough, but must examine why consumers are moving towards other models. They wouldn’t have to dive that deep to realize it’s because these other models better meet author and consumer needs. (There are clear examples of this same transition in the newspaper industry). Publishers have to realize that their barriers to entry have harmed their business and are driving people to seek out more accessible models. It’s not the location that is the problem, but the service offering.

As much as traditional publishers may want to feel needed and necessary, the truth is that other models that are beginning to push them out. In publishing we are providing a service, not a privilege. There is no reason publishers could have not evolved to better meet the needs of consumers to earlier on, when issues (such as barriers to access) were raised.

In order to compete (and consequently, survive), traditional publishers need to evolve. They need to give platform to marginalized voices. They need to find better ways to cater to customers’ needs. They need to deliver specialized services to authors (not necessarily the whole publishing package). They need to step of off their pedestal and share power with customers and authors by better involving them.

To summarize, publishers need to identify barriers to entry in the industry and then find concrete steps they can take to remove these barriers if they want to stay relevant. Otherwise, people will continue to find ways to go around the barriers that are still in place.