Shatzkin: Soon, Most People Working in Publishing Won’t Be Working at Publishing Companies

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The publishing industry is going through “atomization,” according to industry consultant and DBW partner Mike Shatzkin. He writes in his latest blog post at The Shatzkin Files:

Soon — in the next 5 or 10 years — every university (perhaps most departments within a university), every law firm and accounting firm and consulting firm, certainly every content creator in other media, as well as most manufacturers and retailers will become book publishers too.

Since the advent of social media, starting with the rise to prominence of blogs in the early 2000s, every brand has had the capability to become its own media company — and many of them have taken advantage of it. There are thousands of brands with pages on Facebook, Twitter feeds, Tumblr blogs and much more. (Many of them have even produced or bankrolled much more traditional media plays. A typical example is The Financialist, a business and finance blog from Credit Suisse.)

Now that ebooks are popular and relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, non-book-publishing media companies as well as others have jumped on the bandwagon and are making ebooks part of their media  mix. It’s a story we’ve covered heavily at Digital Book World.

Most recently, Scientific American launched a series of ebooks. American Express Publishing launched an ebook line with Vook. The Atlantic began to publish its own ebooks. USA Today published USA Tomorrow, a collection of expert predictions about the future of America. Harlequin and Cosmopolitan magazine inked a deal to publish several ebooks a month together. Newsweek/Daily Beast entered into a partnership with Vook to publish ebooks. Playboy launched a series of shorts for the Kindle, the Washington Post announced an e-book program, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, a trade publication focused on the higher education field, launched an e-book business. Other notable companies to jump into the space are magazine publishers Conde Nast and Hearst and NBC News, a division of NBC Universal. And the Wall Street Journal has recently rejuvenated its e-book program.

As Shatzkin points out in his post, dozens of other entities have already joined the fray and, in the next several years, it will be as obvious to almost any company that they need an ebook/publishing strategy the way they realized several years ago that they needed a social media strategy and how in the 90s they realized they needed a website.

This trend will only continue to gain momentum as the importance of putting books on shelves to sell in bricks-and-mortar stores decreases. In 2012, according to the latest data from Bowker Market Research, online retail has overtaken physical retail as the No. 1 place books and ebooks are purchased. As the strength of physical retail for books continues to decline, so will the necessity of other entities — authors, other companies — to work with established publishers to bring books to market.

Of course, print is still the dominant format for most types of books and it offers a level of prestige that ebooks have yet to match. For companies that want to publish books but aren’t content with publishing only ebooks, there is a remedy, writes Shatzkin:

…the “brand” can handle the whole job themselves, using services offered by many — most prominently Ingram, Perseus, and Random House — to handle the decreasing percentage of the business that is “books in stores.”

While Ingram is a distributor, Perseus has a highly diversified business that is made up of publishing, distribution, technology services and more — but Random House makes most of its money from publishing book. Were the company reduced to being a distributor, it might look very different (and much smaller) than it is today.

Read more at The Shatzkin Files.

3 thoughts on “Shatzkin: Soon, Most People Working in Publishing Won’t Be Working at Publishing Companies

  1. Ben

    I think anyone that predicts ebooks will become the next should also be aware that boom didn’t work very well last time for tech companies. eBooks has a major problems in itself, the manufacturing of it…if anyone that thinks creating an engaging ebook is simply content they couldn’t be more wrong. There’s the skills and knowledge require to create quality ebooks, most of the work are outsourced…that can’t be a solution for growth unless you are Apple. We are still stuck in epub 2.0.1 with the rumor of epub 3 for how long now? You don’t see Amazon worry about their file format do you?

    The reduced sales in physical stores is a talking points. When you put more effort into ebooks and suddenly you start to see results of course it is easy to conclude physical stores are dying…be careful what you wish for, self-fulfilling prophecy has a very thin line.

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