The Digital Music Business FAQ - Book Publishing

A Literary Agent asks:

Will book publishing suffer the same fate as the record business?

Hartmann responds:

The handwriting is on the wall and there is no god powerful enough to stop digimodernization. Reading from paper is too expensive to survive as a great American pastime. Furthermore, it is economically and ecologically unsound.

The big publishers will gobble up the little ones in a vain attempt to grab a few more high profit sales. But, just like the fate the ones and zeros imposed on the record business they will die, crushed under their own weight. So what's new? This is what technology does to everything sooner or later. Somebody builds a better mouse trap and everybody wants one.

Well guess what, everybody has one and the more they play with their computers the faster the old paradigm shifts. And as scary as that may sound to you, it's the best thing that ever happened to authors of creative works. When the price dust settles reading on screen will get millions more people into the mix. More words are read online every day than are accessed from all other sources combined.

It is so Socratic that each and every dreamer can write a book. Why not? Eeverybody is the star of his own movie and all this reading is going to produce a different kind of author. For lack of a term, lets call it "reality writing." Unfettered by the editorial process, the new writers will shred the envelope. The will break all the rules, because they don't know them.

What these cyber-writers bring to the table is freedom. Freedom to create, freedom to publish and most importantly freedom to collect if they write something truly great. Yes, millions will publish a few copies for their friends and family, but think about the potential if you produce something everybody loves. After all it is the entertainment business and only the very best stuff makes the best seller lists.

It is impossible to say what the public will embrace in the long term. History shows that everything just keeps changing. The good news is that if a great book is written and published by the author it will find an audience eager to play and willing to pay. What they won't buy is marginal work.

When the good stuff hits the Internet millions will acquire it for free. A fraction will pay out of appreciation and respect. That minority will be infinitely greater in size than the entire extant book market. The author could sell millions of digital copies in a day. There will be no commissions and no publishers share. The price will be less than five dollars and the author will never have to work again. Of course, he will and he will keep the profit.

Some people will always read from paper books, but they probably ride horses and have eight-track players as well. It's time that the corporate money machines were eliminated from the process and their well demonstrated greed insures their demise. No assasination is required, they shot themselves in the foot and now they are frantically watching themselves bleed out.

Let authors stand on their talents and when they deliver let them keep the money. The world of publishers is doomed, the world of authors is born anew and it is the most exciting time in reading. Some brilliant agents will reinvent the monetization of the business model and all will be well in the land. The winners are the readers and writers. The losers are the powers that used to be and within a decade all that will remain is the ashes of the status quo doused by zeros and ones.

John Hartmann © 2008 – 2024