Book Publishers are not Caterpillars

Dudes in the E-World,

Trade book publishers don’t want to become retailers. They don’t want to cut out the middlemen distributors and retailers. They want more distributors and retailers to carry their stock, print and e-book, not fewer, as fewer has become more and more of a problem for them. They don’t want to have to have a tech support division in India. Book publishers are not caterpillars waiting to be turned into butterflies, to become like Amazon or Apple or Google and all those big, bright product companies that give you endless reams of shiny products to play with. They are not even going to be like Levi jeans. These Hollywood fantasies — with Hollywood budgets that don’t exist in real life — are not going to occur. And no, that doesn’t mean that book publishers will die and new, dynamic e-companies will step forward to take their place and spur a new revolution of book publishing, because other companies don’t want to get into book publishing because there is not enough money in it. Even with e-books. They may be willing to own book publishers as one of their many divisions, though most of them learned their lesson in the 1980’s on that, and they may be willing to sell books from publishers, but they certainly don’t want to be book publishers. That’s like a CEO of an international conglomerate deciding he wants to just run a newsstand in the lobby.  Nor will the growing crowd of e-book customers want to run around to a dozen different publishers (or authors) to buy the titles they want. What they want is to go to one company, like Amazon or Apple, and get most or all of their e-books there. And if you want them to get rid of DRM, you want that to happen, because book publishers are no good at tech and have no money for it, whereas electronic retailers often are and do have money for all of it. Practicality can be paired with creativity.  And you can’t force an industry to be something it’s not. Especially when the money isn’t there.

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