Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Horses & Buggies

The horse and buggy was once the pinnacle of transportation.  The carriage provided shelter from the elements, and the horses provided speed and exertion, thus allowing people to ride in something resembling relaxation.  Now, of course, no one uses the horse and buggy unless he or she is looking for a romantic ride through central park.

The horse and buggy industry didn't go away because technology made it obsolete.  Rather, it went away because it was so focused on the means of its service that it forgot what that service really was - transportation.

Today, the publishing industry is at a similar crossroads.  Most of them are so caught up in protecting hardcover books that they've lost sight of their primary mission - to provide good stories.

In today's day and age, the only real benefit legacy publishers offer is distribution.  A lot of people still get their books from bookstores or Walmart, and since those places rarely stock indie titles, legacy publishers have a stranglehold on them.  However, those are now far from the only means of distribution.  The internet and the age of ebooks have given an alternate means of getting products(books) into the hands of the customer(readers).

It used to be necessary to have a traditional publisher because they could print, bind, and distribute your work.  They also had editors to polish your words and artists to design your cover.  The rise of independent artists and copyeditors for hire have eliminated this need.

None of this has stopped legacy publishers from doing what they could to hold onto the past.  They price ebooks as high or higher than paperbacks, despite next to no overhead costs at all being involved.  However, they have distributors to satisfy and relationships to preserve, so they refuse to adapt.  Further showing at least tacit understanding between them, none of the legacy publishers got bold and embraced the clearly growing phenomenon to corner the market.  Had someone like Penguin-Random House or Hachette done so, they'd own it by now, but that might put them out at cocktail parties, and they can't have that.

In business, you sometimes have to adapt, and that might mean hard decisions on which relationships to retain.  Sure, you can stick with what you know, but the market will make the decision for you.  In response to new technology, a thriving indie market that doesn't need the trappings of traditional publishing has cropped up.  In other words, automobiles are gaining steam, and if the horse and buggy doesn't find a way to adapt rather than keep cars from growing in market share, they'll simply fade away.

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