Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

05/21/2013

Re Publishing: Single Platform Domination – Risk or Not?


Is the Kindle a challenge to book publishers?

Many print publishing business executives, authors, literary agents, editors, booksellers and distributors – as well as their counterparts in the digital publishing business – recently sat down at a roundtable to launch this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Purpose of the roundtable? To plot a publishing industry survival story! (Which begs the question: Do we even need one?)

Even within this inner circle of professionals there is disagreement (and total misinterpretation on the part of some) of what the changing publishing landscape actually means.

Do the churning changes spell disaster or opportunity?

The title of this post was suggested by a fear expressed by Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins UK. She feels that “single platform domination” will be bad for the publishing industry.

Doesn’t she realize that ‘print’ was the single platform domination for the past 500 plus years! And that we are just recently being offered a choice of venues?

This piece by Robert Budden in The Financial Times dot com allows us into the roundtable and the minds of the attendees:

 

Publishing industry roundtable plots a survival story

Serial entrepreneur and Financial Times columnist Luke Johnson could be excused for having a pessimistic outlook on the publishing sector, having “lost a fortune” following his purchase of the UK arm of Borders, the book chain in 2007.

At a roundtable discussion to launch this year’s Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, the co-founder of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners says he “passionately” hopes books continue to prosper.

But, in references to GoogleAmazon and Apple, he warns that software “has become a very serious threat that may well eat” the publishing business.

Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins UK, probably speaks for many publishing executives when she highlights “single platform domination” as “the risk”. “I don’t think it was good for the record industry nor will it be good for publishing,” she says.

The conundrum for publishers is what to do about it.

Tim Harford, an author and also an FT columnist, says the industry needs to take action swiftly, especially in relation to the digital rights management (DRM) approaches of some ebook distributors that lock readers into their ecosystems.

“If you let Amazon and Apple lock in their devices, they are going to slaughter all of you,” he says, referring to book publishers and retailers.

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