Yesterday Ellen F. Brown wrote an interesting opinion piece in Bloomberg called "Why Book Publishing Can Survive the Digital Age: Echoes" in which she provides much-needed perspective on the discussion about how e-publishing is changing the publishing industry. She explains how booksellers cried foul back in the 1920s when grocery stores and book-of-the-month-clubs began to sell books and how people felt the growth of public libraries would lead to the death of the book store.
|A Fawcett Publications Paperback|
Today, Amazon is the Goliath smashing brick and mortar stores with its kindle and its low prices on print books. Amazon is also taking on the publishing industry by allowing the unwashed masses to publish un-vetted e-books and providing editorial and marketing services to un-agented authors.
Ellen Brown's outlook remains positive. If the industry could survive grocery stores, public libraries, and paperbacks, it can certainly handle the digital revolution. Besides, the publishing industry offers something self-publishers cannot: quality.
Brown writes: "Not all books deserve to be published, nor are they all worth sifting through. For decades, our reading experience has been incalculably enhanced by the editors, agents and booksellers who work behind the scenes culling books for us, and there's every reason to think readers will be willing to pay a premium for such services."
While I agree with Ellen Brown's main idea, that publishing will survive the digital age, I disagree with her reasoning why.
The digital revolution is about far more than a format change. Yes, many of us self-published authors were too quick to get our work out there when Amazon gave us that opportunity. We foolishly listened to friends and relatives who said our work was wonderful. We either did not hire editors or hired ones who had little experience in editing novels. But that is changing. We've learned our lesson. Self-published authors are hiring editors and other professionals laid off or put off by the industry to 'incalculably enhance' their novels. There are a lot of bad self-published books out there, but that is changing. Some of the best fiction I've read in the last few months has been written by self-published authors.
Another point that needs to be made is that mainstream publishers can no longer claim the high ground when it comes to "culling books for us". I'm a reviewer and I've read an awful lot of crap 'culled' by industry editors, agents, and booksellers. The cream does not always rise to the top in publishing. A big marketing campaign and a movie deal cannot make up for a book that is badly written and poorly edited.
The real revolution is in the emancipation of authors who have realized that they can hire their own editors and still retain the greater portion of their royalties and the entirety of the rights to their work. I agree that readers will pay a premium for quality writing. I do not agree that the publishing industry is the only source for that quality writing.