Here is a compelling blog post by independent author David Gaughran, who apart from his fiction writes probably the best blog out there on independent publishing. Gaughran makes the case that the future of publishing belongs to those going indie:
The problem for large publishers…is that they are transitioning from a marketplace where they controlled distribution to one where they don’t. The digital playing field is wide open and, for the first time, the publishing conglomerates are facing real competition from a horde of hungry self-publishers, savvy small publishers, as well as, of course, Amazon.
You can read Gaughran’s post to check out the numbers that back up this claim. Among those statistics:
For the last few months, indies were responsible for between a third and a quarter of the top-selling e-books on Amazon.
That’s a significant loss in market share for traditional publishers, to put it mildly.
As I mentioned yesterday on the Facebook page of my company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, last I week I called into the Kojo Nnamdi Show, a local Washington D.C. radio talk show, which was featuring a panel discussion on the rise of e-books. I wanted to respond to one of the panelist’s observations that the rise of e-books (even apart from independent publishing) threatens traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores and the culture they foster and sustain. As I told the panel, I am in no way eager for the loss of traditional bookstores. As long as they’re selling coffee, they provide something rapidly disappearing from our culture: shared public space in which to relax, talk, read, learn. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to be romantic about contemporary bookstores. Most of them don’t really provide a rich “café culture,” however good the lattes may be. But the panelist did raise an issue worth thinking about:
What’s the social impact of the rise of the e-book, and of the scores of independent authors and publishers, like myself, who are capitalizing on the technology? As more and more of the reading experience goes, as it were, “underground” to the Internet, is it a net loss or net gain when it comes to creating communities? In my call to the Kojo Nnamdi Show I claimed that the independent authors and their readers are forming vibrant virtual communities. The website on which Gaughran piece appears, IndieReader.com, is just one of many sites and blogs where such communities are being formed. But is this an exaggeration? Can we really call these communities? Or are they simply marketplaces?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Meanwhile, a final note from Gaughran’s piece:
As more business shifts online and to digital (and this Christmas will be huge in that regard), large publishers are going to suffer even more as, for the first time, a significant portion of their business is going to be subjected to the kind of competition they were shielded from through their control of the print distribution network.
If true, this is a powerful point about tectonic shifts in the field of book distribution. But even if it's true, what’s the social impact?