Future of Books: Will Publishers Weather the Changes?

New technologies are changing how books are read and distributed. Will publishing houses change their business models?
King, Franchise Selection Spec\'s Inc
February 02, 2012

Unless you’ve just woken up from a state of suspended animation, you’re aware of the changes that are taking place in book publishing. New technologies are impacting the way books are distributed and how they’re read.

What will happen to esteemed publishing houses, like Random House and Simon and Schuster? Will they manage to change their business models?

“Most industries transform instead of disappear,” said former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in an interview on the McKinsey Quarterly. Watch the "Destruction of Business Models" video interview.

A couple of questions need to be asked.

  1. Is the printed book dying a slow death?

  2. Will our children and grandchildren look at our home libraries, screw up their little faces and ask, “Grandma, why do you have all these musty books around?”

As to No. 1, I hope not. As for No. 2, musty old books are kind of cool.

Real books smell good

I love hardcover books. I love paperback books. I absolutely love the smell of them, especially when they’re brand-new. They also feel pretty good when you hold them.

When you’re a newly published author like me, a hardcover book is a great thing for business. For instance, I could walk into the corporate office of my local ABC TV station with book in hand and ask to see someone from the news department. I'd have an above-average chance of getting a short introduction and making a pitch for an on-air interview.

A hardcover book opens a lot of doors. It’s an instant credibility magnet.

Kindles don’t smell

When I pop open my wife’s Kindle, it doesn’t have much of a smell. I don’t think Nooks have a smell either, but I’m not sure.

E-readers have other things missing, too. They don’t have inside flaps. They don’t have back covers containing blurbs from highly influential people.

Remember the television-station example I used? How successful do you think I’d be walking into that same television station with a Kindle? Would I be taken seriously? Or, as I suspect, would there be a credibility deficiency?

Innovation in book publishing

“I’ve gathered you here among your friends, associates and readers to express some concerns we all have about your future," wrote Jim Kukral a few months ago. "It’s become [apparent] to us that you have decided to continue to work with a legacy publisher for your next book, as opposed to pursing a self-publishing option.

“We feel that this is very destructive behavior. We wanted to get you here to tell you about it so that we might be able to help you change your path and not suffer the long-term consequences you will face down the road.”

Thanks for offering to intervene.

Kukral may be onto something here. Soon, he’ll release a book in digital form. Business Around a Lifestyle sounds interesting. Lots of people dream about having a business of their own that they can integrate into their lifestyle. But, it probably won’t be a bestseller. Nor, do I think he cares that much if it isn’t.

He might not care because he brought in $35,225 before he even wrote the book. He crowdsourced the funds needed to publish the book. The small businesses and individuals who pledged money to help Kukral publish the book, the first in a series, are more like sponsors. They’ll get exposure when it’s published.

"Anybody can write a book and have it on Amazon (and other places) for sale in 24 hours or less," says Kukral. "The best part is that you can keep the majority of the profits, unlike the tiny percentage that most traditional publishers give out.”

He isn’t just writing books. He’s showing others how to self-publish using the crowdsource model.

Self-publishing is becoming very popular. Using crowdsourcing to raise funds for a book is certainly innovative.

Do you think that crowdsourcing is the wave of the future?