Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Changing Role of Publishers

Every day there are new views and discussions about the changing role of publishing, While browsing for the latest developments, I found this August, 2014 article "Authors should back Amazon in the battle with Hachette" by John Kay in The Financial Times. Kay's article is about change, the value of publishers and the strengthened role of authors. He describes the ebook controversy between Amazon and Hachette, which last summer was still unresolved after months of negotiations, - see also my June, 2014 blog post The Amazon - Hachette Saga -and he disagrees with a group of leading Hachette authors who wrote an open letter intervening in that dispute. Kay believes the authors should understand that they are benefiting from Amazon's technology and distribution capabilities. Although the dispute between Hachette and Amazon has been resolved (see this November article in The New York Times,) Kay makes some worthwhile points. In his view it's all about change and how publishers and authors - and readers for that matter - deal with this ongoing change in the publishing landscape. He states (underlining added by undersigned):

"....Established companies in all industries are inhibited in their response to radical change by vested interests inherent in their existing business models. Music publishers tried to block new technologies, and were marginalised by better-run businesses: Apple, Walmart and Spotify. Book publishers responded initially with dismal reproductions on screen of their printed books. When these failed to sell, they retired into protecting the status quo........... 

....The role of the book publisher has been based on control of access to channels of distribution. The ambition of the aspirant author has always been to “get published”. Along with the decision as to what should be published, the company has traditionally provided a collection of associated services: identification, support and finance of the underlying literary project, editing of the draft manuscript, and marketing and promotion of the finished work. But the large conglomerates that have come to dominate publishing are run by people who love money more than they love books. These support-activities have been cut back in the interest of maximising the revenue, from control of access to distribution. "

Kay continues by saying: