The Smartest Thing In Publishing Is To Be Flexible

This post, by Kassia Krozser, originally appeared on the fortykey publishing blog on 11/5/12.

The only certain thing in publishing nowadays is that everything moves really fast. If you should describe the actual situation with three adjectives, which ones would you pick and why?

I’m not so great with adjectives, but here are three words I think describe the current state of publishing:


Uncertain. Nobody knows what the next year will bring, much less the next ten years. In 2007, people were brushing off digital as "less than 1% of our business". Or, it wasn’t something that needed serious attention. Today, trade publishers (U.S., particularly) are seeing approximately 20% of their business coming from digital sales. The thing is, the changes in the print/digital selling mix are uneven.

On top of that, *nobody* really knows how big the digital marketplace is. If you poke around outside traditional publishing, you know self-publishing is seeing huge gains. But what only gets attention is a small portion of that self-publishing market. Beyond the stories that make the headlines (or invite scoffs and skepticism among certain ranks of publishing insiders), there is a a massive marketplace. Now maybe most of those people aren’t making a fortune, but they are disrupting traditional publishing channels.

Exciting. Technology is making it possible for us to reimagine storytelling. It’s also allowing us to get books and other things we read (the list is so long) into the hands of more people than ever before. Right now, I am particularly interested in how innovation plays out in the world of education. The State of California is making a huge push toward open source digital textbooks. This is going to encourage new entrants into the marketplace, and, if history holds true, they won’t be thinking of textbooks in the same way established players do.

Entrenched. One major problem I see across all types of traditional publishers is a desire to maintain business as usual. This is completely understandable — this digital thing is so new, so uncertain, and, frankly, the print model is still working very, very well for most publishers. But, as you note, everything moves really fast these days, and if anyone is stuck in the mode of "that’s how we’ve always done it", they will be left behind.

That sounds harsh, but the publishing industry (as we know it) doesn’t control "publishing" the way it once did. Or maybe it never did, but it seemed that way. Either way, there are smart innovators out there ready and able to fill voids left by publishers who are too busy standing in place to take advantage of how this market is changing every day.

Could you point out an example of innovation in publishing that is worth to look at in the next future?


Read the rest of the post on the fortykey publishing blog.