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If book publishing is dying, have I made a bad mistake?

? Blog finds fault with our (ie. Heather's) read on podcasts |


| How about a working children blog? ?

March 03, 2006

If book publishing is dying, have I made a bad mistake?

Stephen Baker

In this wide-ranging interview with Esther Dyson, (Thanks Jason)she compares Yahoo!'s development approach to intelligent design, and contrasts it to Google's wild evolution. She dismisses the idea of the French government creating its own Google. But what caught my attention was her dire forecast for the book publishing industry:

"I expect that business models will change further and it seems likely that the traditional music and book publishing industry, for example, will have to change radically, or die. They have huge investments in marketing and distribution, but that value is eroding rapidly, leaving them with costs that are increasingly hard to cover. The new digital and networked online environment simply does not support big intermediaries; the revenues, moreover, can flow more directly to the artists rather than to the intermediaries."

As I write, I'm on the second day of a year-long book leave, financed by a publisher. My question is how I would swing this without the help of a "big intermediary." Who could afford to take a year to research something? Will book publishing, like politics, become an activity for the wealthy? Or is there some way to raise the money from the community, or from advertisers, throughout the entire process, and not depend as much on sales of the final product?

By the way, for anyone familiar with Ecko, I have a question. See the way I can't get the left margin back to its starting point after Esther's quote? Any idea how to do that?

11:38 AM


I believe the first year will be on the author. Once reputation capital has been built based on the success(?) of the first work, there are other ways to pay for the next year of research ... and I don't see any reason it can't come from consumers instead of the middlemen. The key imo is in being creative in finding those ways (although some are already online).

Posted by: csven at March 3, 2006 01:19 PM

The problem is the tag not being closed in the right spot. When I edit with "finicky" CMS programs I find it's easier to add the text before and after the quote (even if it's only a placeholder) and then put the quote in the middle.

Posted by: graywolf at March 3, 2006 01:43 PM

I like what are doing, I heard about their business models from one of their senior people last week, and was impressed. I think it would work for serious books as well, without the 'overheads'.

Posted by: Niti Bhan at March 4, 2006 12:45 AM

Can a editor can explain us the new technology of Dynamotive, the canadian company who REALLY made biofuel from woods...

I find no good reports nowwhere.

Instead to repeat us that Intel is growing again, I believe it s time that we understand next century fuel technology.


Posted by: Olczyk at March 4, 2006 03:41 AM


It seems that for many writers that I invited for networking discussions, the book is part of their portfolio.

There might be more financial rewards coming from speaking fees and the like.

A number of authors also publish online excerpts of the work in progress.

As far as self publishing, I checked LULU and more recently BLURB that Niti Bhan mentions.

I think LULU wins. They offer more options and the pricing is much more realistic and you publish your work in either E Book or Paper form or both.

I think for bloggers and others who already have an audience in many places this is the way to go.

On the fundraising/financing part Fundable offers a good solution.

Have a good week-end


Business Site:


Posted by: Serge Lescouarnec at March 4, 2006 01:47 PM

If you write blockbusters, Stephen, the economics are still favorable. If you write thoughtful, long-tail stuff, as I sometimes do, the economics are shot. Only self-publication, on-demand printing (lightning Source, for example) or ebooks will make it through.

Another alternative, which I'm sure you've explored, is a bursary from a college, institute, of corporation. I imagine, though, as you sit in the heart of McGraw-Hill, you wouldn't have a problem, especially with your exposure as a journalist.

But the philosophical side of math would have to spark with the Stephen Hawking audience to get a trade publisher really interested, I would have thought.

Horses for courses.

Posted by: John Evans (Syntagma) at March 6, 2006 05:59 AM

Established writers could offer readers direct access to follow their work progress in realtime for a fee - alternatively readers who purchase the book in advance could be given exclusive access to follow the writing process from start to finish - or some variation thereof - the tools now exist to do pretty much anything from a micro publishing point of view. Stephen as someone who is currently finishing my first (and last book) I wish you the very best of luck with your writing.

Posted by: Declan at March 6, 2006 11:25 AM

From the video I watched of Blurb's CEO discussing the service, the target market is different from Lulu. At least initially. A link to both a C|Net interview video, the DEMO video and some additional comments of mine (briefly comparing Blurb to other services like Lulu) are in an older post of mine at .

Posted by: csven at March 6, 2006 03:42 PM

Stephen, here is a workaround for you to fix that text alignment problem, dude:

next time, type the whole post, as normally formatted text, with no block quotes.

then...go and highlight what will be your block quote. the software progam should then only indent the block quote and leave everything prior and after untouched.

I am familiar only with WordPress, Blogger, MySpace, Frapper...not Ecko. so i hope it works.

See my comment at DL Byron's Blog Business Summit site for my thoughts on ebooks and the nice smelling, shiny new Old Books at Barnes & Noble brick and mortar.

New media rarely "replaces" old media, it just adds to it. Gesture and word of mouth and micro-telepathy were first, and are still alive and well on Gaia Garbage Can Earth.

Posted by: steven e streight aka vaspers the grate at March 7, 2006 01:22 PM

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