INTERVIEW: Seth Godin on Libraries, Literary Agents and the Future of Book Publishing as We Know It

This piece, by Jeff Rivera, originally appeared on the Digital Book World site on 3/4/12.

He is arguably one of the most successful bloggers and thought-leaders of our time. When Seth Godin speaks, people sit up and listen, even if they’re the CEO of one of the Big 6 publishers. He raised eyebrows with his decision to leave the traditional book publishing industry in order to form his own entity called The Domino Project. But when he made the decision to move on after 12 bestsellers, tongues wagged.

Had his precious experiment failed or knowing Godin, was something greater in store? To find out, I asked Godin about this as well as his thoughts on not only the future of the book publishing industry as we know it but also why he calls some book publishers’ decision to pull the plug on libraries’ access to eBooks “silly”. 

Rivera: Your latest book, Stop Stealing Dreams deals with the educational system in America. If you were to have a sit down with the Secretary of Education, what would you say?

What’s school for?

Instead of overhauling our tactics to get better at delivering what school used to deliver, can we have an honest discussion about what we’re trying to create?

And if you don’t believe the entire system can be rebuilt to deliver on these goals, how can we blow it up into little bits in a way that causes the quickest reinvention?


Rivera: You recently closed The Domino Project. If you could do it all over again, what would you have done differently?

You never close a book project, in that the books remain on sale, hopefully forever. We did 12 books, had 12 bestsellers, brought a dozen big ideas to more than a million people–I’m not sure I’d change any of that.

The book industry is going through a massive change, and the reason I called it a project, not ‘the answer’, is because this is a step along the way in a pretty long journey.


Rivera: If The Domino Project wasn’t a “failure”, what were your main reasons for “transitioning” it and refocusing on other things?

Godin: Of course it was a project, not a forever gig. Deep down, I’m a writer, not a publisher, and as I saw the shifts in the way people are consuming media, I came to the conclusion that my authors would be better off being even more directly engaged with their readers than I could deliver for them. We were 12 for 12, but that’s a big promise to make to the next round of authors and I just didn’t want to jump through those hoops to deliver on it.


Rivera: Forrester recently reported that they foresee a drastic drop in book print sales by 2013. What do you envision the book publishing industry looking like in 3-5 years?


Read the rest of the piece on Digital Book World.