Is the Internet the Publishing Industry’s Best Friend?

For all the talk in recent years of how the Internet will kill off the already dwindling audience of book readers, it struck me recently that perhaps this theory will prove to be exactly wrong. One of the most common Internet memes is the reading list — a 50-book challenge or some such — in which people all over the world list and comment on the books they are reading. This would seem to give any book added value since it’s providing not only the entertainment or enlightenment or mental excercise that people generally look for in the act of reading, but additionally a means of connecting with the broader world. That’s got to be worth something, doesn’t it?


www.cooperwd.com

Absolutely! Even if the publishing industry's numbers are down, I think the overall experience of buying and owning a book has improved with the Internet explosion -- you can find the right book, find out about it, and purchase it -- so much more easily than you once could.

Moreover, human beings are tactile, analog animals that enjoy a sensory reward in reading (and carrying, and tossing around, and annoting, and sharing) a well-designed book. Even on crappy paper, good content is a joy to read. Consider the New Yorker anthology -- I love owning it, but if I'm going to read any more than 1,000 words I spark up the laser jet.

Perhaps the publishing industry would be better off trying to find the right focus and scale for its changing market, instead of trying to achieve the mass market appeal of days gone by.

Oe, maybe they're doomed. :)

donxml

The publishing industry is extremely scared of the internet, because with the internet you can do things like self-publish. It is much easier to self-publish now, thanks to the internet, and with things like a good blog, you can create your own publicity, and not have to rely on the publisher to promote your book. And with sites like Amazon, you can even sell your book via the internet, and you don't need a publisher. The downside is that (currently) you will have a hard time getting into a traditional brick and mortar. But, for niche topics (which typically sell less then 5000 copies), an person can write and publish a book sans publisher, and make a lot more then one could have done selling 10000 copies via a publisher, even if they only sell 1/5 the number of books. I wrote an article on this topic “Why Shouldn't Authors Self-Publish?”, http://donxml.com/grokthis/archive/2004/05/07/686.aspx back in 2004, which was noticed by some notable publishers (Tim O'Reilly) for my niche, technology.

Read more...

philipw2

The market for used books, which the internet aids a lot, hurts the business model of many publishers. Even Amazon is now selling used books, for which the original publisher gets nada. The effects would be similar to a large public lending library.

Stephen J. Dubner

philipw2 Says:

"The market for used books, which the internet aids a lot, hurts the business model of many publishers. Even Amazon is now selling used books, for which the original publisher gets nada. The effects would be similar to a large public lending library."

I'm not sure that's the right way to look at it. An existing market in used books makes it much more attractive for a customer to buy a new book, since it will have resale value. Here are links to a) an article by Hal Varian in the N.Y. Times on this subject and b) an abstract of an academic paper on the subject that Varian cites.

a) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/28/technology/28scene.html?ex=1280203200&en=33765024cbf62d4c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&NYT_REG_SUCKS

b) http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=584401

SeansW

With each new medium we fear the loss of those that have come before. However, even the less technological mediums seem to continue long after we have deemed them to be obsolete. Just when you thought radio was dead several companies are pooring in tens of millions of dollars into providing the same service through satelite. Written communication now exists in hard copy and soft copy. And although techology has created a new form of short hand in internet chat rooms around the world, the rules of good story telling remains the same.
Right now I think we are in a position where we must reconcile the old media with the new media. It's unknown if the electronic medium will continue to be dominant in the near future.

SeansW

Self publishing is far more economical than traditional printing, but I think that any writer would champion the value of having a good editor assist in publishing their materials. Certainly we have seen more writers' work made available, but that has also provided us with more drivel to sort through. If internet publishing is going to become more accepted we are going to need good editors to help these writers be certain that they are publishing at or above the same quality that is required in traditional publishing.

econopete

The internet could also be used to spread information about a controversy faster, as with "A Million Little Pieces."

http://us.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/books/01/11/arts.frey.reut/index.html

But hey, you can get a refund for the book you read :p

crank

I read out of habit - my parents are to blame/thank for that.
I spend more on books thanks to the net simply because I have more access to books that interest me, and can find out more about them. #1 BESTSELLER!!! is not the kind of info that makes me buy. Reading a sample chapter, or a review by someone I consider a peer, or trusted source makes me buy.

crankademic » Blog Archive » Friend or Foe: Publishing and the net

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John S.

"The market for used books, which the internet aids a lot, hurts the business model of many publishers."

The used car market doesn't seem to affect the buisiness model of auto manufacturers. In fact, the successful ones (such as Toyota) often emphasize the high resale value of their cars. So they are encouraging you to sell it on the secondary market. Maybe if book publishers wised up, they would embrace the used book market as well?

aljones15

not to mention people are reading more and hence rediscovering that past time that TV supposively took away from them. I think the internet has helped, but the publishers have yet to find a really good model for books in the internet era although this blog is a good start =)

peace,
A

philipw2

Good points. Guess I was mistaken.

YechezkelZilber

I can say that as someone who lives in Israel with no access to a "real" English written bookstores. The extistence of Amazon's bookstore has made me reading many books.

The customer reviews.
The very wide selection, not to be found in any land based book store. You can put in a name of almost any book and just get it. You can look for books on a subject and find a relevant book that fits you best.

In the end I would have never read half of the books I read form Amazon without the Internet.

SeansW

The internet is a good resource, but I still look to television and newspapers' literary critics when I choose books. I didn't read Blink until I had seen interviews with Malcolm Gladwell on both Studio 2 (TVO Ontario) and Hot Type (CBC) and had the opportunity to hear the book discussed by both the author and the critics. Freakonomics was brought to my attention by these two sources and was suggested reading by Gladwell. Since reading both books I have become a regular reader of The New Yorker. My only regret is that we don't have a Canadian equivalent to the New Yorker and it doesn't appear that the subjects in Freakonomics are being adressed from a Canadian perspective. Yes, many of the topics relate to Canadians as well, but the examples tend to be very specific to the U.S.

Joe Wikert's Book Publisher Blog

Freakonomics of the Publishing Industry

My thanks to computer book publishing veteran Juliana Aldous at Microsoft for pointing this one out on her own blog, The Jaldous Journal. I missed it earlier this month, but one of the authors of Freakonomics had an interesting post

[...] There is a lively discussion around the article by one of the authors of Freakonomics on whether the internet is good or bad to the publishing industry. [...]

Always Learning!

Comments on ‘Is the Internet the Publishing Industry's Best Friend?’

There is a lively discussion around the article by one of the authors of Freakonomics on whether the internet is good or bad to the publishing industry.
My take on it is that the internet is bad for publishing industry as it was a year ago. But having ...

Thom Calandra

Like Netflix, actually: groups -- group-wish -- sells flicks.

rashmi

use of internet has increased the level of profit earned by the publishing industries.not only profit ,their goodwill, working capacity has also been increased including the reliability of matter they print. it became so easier for the industry to amplify their work.

www.cooperwd.com

Absolutely! Even if the publishing industry's numbers are down, I think the overall experience of buying and owning a book has improved with the Internet explosion -- you can find the right book, find out about it, and purchase it -- so much more easily than you once could.

Moreover, human beings are tactile, analog animals that enjoy a sensory reward in reading (and carrying, and tossing around, and annoting, and sharing) a well-designed book. Even on crappy paper, good content is a joy to read. Consider the New Yorker anthology -- I love owning it, but if I'm going to read any more than 1,000 words I spark up the laser jet.

Perhaps the publishing industry would be better off trying to find the right focus and scale for its changing market, instead of trying to achieve the mass market appeal of days gone by.

Oe, maybe they're doomed. :)