Mike Shatzkin asks: what can publishers offer in digital publishing? A response.
Mike Shatzkin has just posted an excellent new article: "Will book publishers be able to retain primacy as ebook publishers?" Some snippets:
"... I think we’re going to see a US market that is 80% digital for narrative text reading in the pretty near future: could be as soon as two years from now but almost certainly within five ...
... Now here’s a fact which is documentable, and would be documented right here on a day when time wasn’t in such short supply: brands that are not publishing houses are directly publishing their own ebooks with increasing frequency. Magazines and television networks and web sites are recognizing the reality that self-publishing ebooks is something they can do themselves without the complications (or revenue-sharing) that working with a publisher would require.
This is not a surprise to me, but it does really raise a point that major publishers have to consider: can book publishers add enough value to the ebook publishing process to persuade another brand with content credibility, one that has direct contact with the vertical community that is the audience for their books, to do their ebooks through the publisher rather than directly?
This is an existential question for big trade publishers ...
... Which leads to the conversation I had this past week with the marketing VP ... I raised the question: “will publishers be able to persuade these non-publisher brands that it is worth giving up margin and some control to work with publishers in the years to come?”
“That’s a very tall order,” he said ...
... Developing skills and capabilities that make their ebook-publishing ability superior to vertical brands is going to be essential for publishers’ survival as the skills and capabilities to do print publishing become less important commercially over time, as they will ..."
I think this is a vital question - maybe THE question, for publishers, for writers and other content producers, for literary agents - for the entire publishing infrastructure.