Two news recent news articles point to changes in business models for publishing.
Courtney Sullivan’s essay in the New York Times Sunday Book Review describes the “author web site” industry that has grown up around publishing to promote the books.
A survey released last June by the Codex Group, a research firm that monitors trends in book buying, found that 8 percent of book shoppers had visited author Web sites in a given week.
Lorcan Dempsey discusses the importance of “social objects” in our networked culture. “Social objects become integral to communications activity, and providers think about how their resources might benefit from social engagement.” Like the meta-content that has grown up around television series (web sites, background videos, extra “web only” episodes, graphic novels, etc.), authors and publishers are trying to build a social network around the books of authors.
In “Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature,” Lev Grossman discusses recent shifts toward self-publishing that seem to be acceptable in ways that “vanity publishing” wasn’t.
Self-publishing has gone from being the last resort of the desperate and talentless to something more like out-of-town tryouts for theater or the farm system in baseball. It’s the last ripple of the Web 2.0 vibe finally washing up on publishing’s remote shores. After YouTube and Wikipedia, the idea of user-generated content just isn’t that freaky anymore.
After describing some of the problems plaguing publishers, Grossman says:
Put these pieces together, and the picture begins to resolve itself: more books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City’s entrenched publishing culture. Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.
Both articles point to radical changes in publishing. Whatever it becomes, publishing in the future will provide a broader range of possibilities and provide even more challenge for information discovery and collection development.