Traditional Publishing In the New Digital Era
“The moment of any new information technology is a moment of choice (Raymond Williams., Barnsley, 2011)”. Publishing is traditionally an old industry that has been rooted in print culture (Hesse 1997). From the beginning of the Gutenberg days when the printing press was created, this industry has known to have times of unmanageable highs and distressing lows (Kachka, 2008). As a result, the decline of traditional publishing due to the onset of new technology is definitely not a surprise. Publishers since the beginning have been seen as the middle ground between an author and the reader, also known as the consumer (Lloyd, 2008). Traditional roles of a publisher would involve tasks such as producing, marketing and distributing works of text (Lloyd, 2008). Furthermore, they would play a huge role in helping the author understand what the market demanded, as well as putting effort into publishing a book that was aimed at gaining the most revenue. However, due to the infiltration of new media, there has been an increase in the phenomenon of self-publishing; the role of the traditional publisher is beginning to be limited (Sturdivant, 2011). This is happening because traditional jobsas those in the role of production and distribution are being eliminated. Thus, if authors begin to self-publish themselves and a solution is not found; undoubtedly the chances of traditional publishing to disappear would not be inevitable (Lloyd, 2008). Another problem that contributes to this is the multimedia world their consumers are immersed in (Hyatt, 2009). This leads to difficulty in selling an un-interactive object such as the book. Mainly the question that arises is will traditional publishing be taken over by self- publishing, thus leading to an end in traditional print culture.
Traditional publishing is an intricate and complicated method that ranges in many different factors. Beginning with the simplest characteristic which is its delivery format, books have always been attributed to having certain qualities such as glossy paper or specific binding (Hesse, 1997). This tedious process is reflected again in the process of production of a text to its distribution (Lloyd, 2008). Other variables that play into this process are competition among the content contributors and financial models (Hyatt, 2009). Conventionally, the publisher was the key player in all of this, for he or she was the between person between the linear progression of a text between author and reader (Lloyd, 2008). From the writing and editing process to the sales, marketing and distribution of a text, full control was given to the publisher (Michelle, 2011). To add to this, during this traditional time of publishing reading was seen as a solitary, immersive experience that was almost one could say a form of escapism (Lloyd, 2008). So why is this form of publishing in turmoil?
Many large publishing houses have accepted the fact that traditional publishing is facing its hardest times. Denial in the fact that less and less people are dependent if even interested in publishing brands anymore is a concept that is incomprehensible to say the least (Kachka, 2008). Furthermore, feelings of anger and depression are results of this new take on publishing (Barnsley, 2011). An example of this is HarperCollins which occupies floors one to twenty two, and where the receptionist on the twenty sixth floor is sitting alone with empty cubicles beside her (Kachka, 2008). This is simply because more people are investing less of their time in traditional publishing, for it costs more to have a physical text (Hyatt, 2009). As a result, the consumption of books has reduced by twenty percent which is not at all good news for large and even small publishing houses (Kleinfield, 1980). This happens because if the readers can get the content for free why would they pay large sums of money to get a physical text.For example, twenty five percent of books go to the conveyer belt to be shredded as stated by an associate of HarperCollins, if that is not a disappointing reality than who knows what is (Kachka, 2008). However, a key player in all of this is the oncoming of new technology which has taken the world from print culture to that of digital culture, in turn making self-publishing more appealing than traditional publishing.
Self-publishing is motivated by the new digital era of eBooks, or even more generally the wired world. In this new type of publishing the consumer is seen as caring less and less about publisher brands (Keillor, 2010). Instead, it is an era where readers are seen has having more of a role in every aspect of creating a book. Because of this they are seen as proconsumers, this means they are part consumers and part producers (Lloyd, 2008). This new characteristic and identity of the consumer has led to an increase, growth and maturation in the self-publishing process (Kachka, 2008). Another reason this form of publishing has taken a great hold is because there are many self-publishing services available on the internet which enables authors to self-promote themselves (Keillor, 2010). Inevitably, this process completely eliminates the tedious task of a traditional publisher relying on the process of filtering manuscripts and having the highest authority in how a book must be published.
The authority of the traditional publisher has been passed down to that of the proconsumer and author. Self- publishing provides the writer the ability and the freedom to write about whatever they want and go about the process with ultra-freedom (Michelle, 2011). What this means is that children and even adults are beginning to write more and more because they have the resources too. Blogging or even reading and surfing on the internet are all key contributors to this boom (Keillor, 2010). But one of the biggest advantages is that it is free. The fact that it is free makes it possible for the writer to write anything they want, and with the aid of self-publishing sites the process becomes even simpler. A few examples of such sites are Book surge by Amazon, PubIt and ExLibres (Keillor, 2010). All of these sites provide a person with the resources to write his or her own eBook. This is an appealing process because the various steps that used to exist in traditional publishing are cut down to a large degree (Kleinfield, 1980). As a result, possibly for the sake of convenience the great and detailed publishing process begins to lose its demand in present day society.
The greatest advantages of self-publishing arethe creative flexibility an author obtains, as well as the full controlthey obtain in the production of their own book (Michelle, 2011). Firstly, the editing process, meaning what should stay and what should not is not dependent on a higher level but on the choice of the author. Secondly, the cover art design is based on the creative viewpoint of the author and how they perceive their book should be conveyed to the consumer (Michelle, 2011). As well as, the way the author would like his or her book to be marketed to the consumer is all in his or her control. All these factors make self- publishing very appealing to writers. To add to this, there are no backlists which meanall books are always on sale with long life spans (Michelle, 2011). In contrast, with traditional publishing, if the books are not on the internet after a couple of months, approximately six to nine the books are taken off the shelf to make room for the newer books (Michelle, 2011). But if a writer self-publishes his or her own book they have the power to give it a long life span. Overall, self-publishing is a more free approach to publishing which makes it more popular among upcoming authors.
The End of Tradition?
To say that traditional publishing is coming to an end is a very pessimistic statement. The onset of self-publishing in present day society may have affected the business, but that does not mean it is about to vanish. Most often, any new form of technology brings about the claim that any form of old technology will be eliminated (Barnsley, 2011). But if looked at carefully, each medium has transformed and prospered rather than disappeared (Barnsley, 2011). However, all of this is truly dependent on the choices publishers make in order to determine their own future. Firstly, they need to work hard again in building solid relationships with their consumers and regain their previous role of being a nurturer for the authors (Barnsley, 2011). Furthermore, even though society is very much based on multimedia if the story written is not good, no other extra content will truly benefit it (Hyatt, 2009). Thus, publishers should also focus on paying attention to the way work is written in order set forth the best of the best (Kleinfield, 1980). They need to show themselves as overseers of great innovative content to their audiences (Barnsley, 2011).They can contribute to this by paying close attention to editing and covert art design which is taken for granted and almost left in second place at the hand of self-publishers (Michelle, 2011). To add to this, publishers need to educate themselves on the current market and understand the motivations of the consumers in order to directly or indirectly influence the choices of the market (Barnsley, 2011).Also, they have the resources and the ability to market the book they are selling to a completely different level in comparison to a self- published author (Michelle, 2011). And the biggest factor is they need to play up on the negatives of self-publishing.
Authors need the input of publishers to have a truly successful model. They do not have the knowledge nor do they have the expertise on how to sell their book to reap in the maximum profit (Michelle, 2011). Also, the recognition a publisher brand can provide an author with is far superior to when an author self-publishes his or her own book. An example that shows this in present day society is that of Amanda Hocking (Barnsley, 2011). She is a twenty six year old writer that has self-published many forms of work, but the written work she has paid most attention to was signed with a large publishing house to sell (Barnesly, 2011). This was for the simple reason that they acquired the biggest distribution channel. Therefore, self-publishing is almost something for fun and true written works that authors hope to truly maximize on are those that are dependent on traditional publishing houses to market (Michelle, 2011).
Traditional publishing while being a complicated process of print culture, still has the ability to remain a dominant form of publishing in the digital era. While the coming up of technology is most often attributed to destroying old technology, publishers can learn from new technology and adapt to the current market (Barnsley, 2011). By having knowledge and gaining followers in their consumers they can motivate authors to gravitate towards them. Furthermore, while self -publishingin theory can be seen to eliminate traditional publishing. Realistically, there are many cons that cannot be ignored. From recognition an author can receive to the ability to maximize the books market, the traditional publisher will always obtain the upper hand (Michelle, 2011). This is because they will always obtain greater knowledge on this procedure which has been existent for a long time. By exploiting the negatives of self-publishing, traditional publishing houses can reinvent their brands and gain a consumer following (Barnsley, 2011). Overall, even though authors and readers have moved their attention to the World Wide Web, the optimistic reality is that as long as serious writing is existent traditional publishing will also not disappear.
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Michelle, Elisa. September 16, 2011. Self vs. Traditional Publishing: What’s Your Take On It? http://elisamichelle.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/self-vs-traditional-publishing-whats-your-take-on-it/ Accessed on September 30, 2011.
Sturdivant, Jim. July 2011. Self- Publishing: Friend or Foe? Book Business.http://www.bookbusinessmag.com/article/book-publishers-beginning-embrace-self-publishing-movement/1#utm_source=bookbusinessmag.com&utm_medium=home_page&utm_campaign=today-in-book-publishing-tab Accessed on September 29, 2011.