If the Publishing Conglomerates Go Out of Business Should We Care?

No replies
WolfLarsen's picture
Joined: 2011/02/08

If the Publishing Conglomerates Go Out of Business Should We Care?

Some thoughts by Wolf Larsen


In today's New York Times (June 2, 2014) there are interesting articles about the world of books in the business section. Of course, it's in the business section, because books are big business.


Of course, you've all heard about the conflict between certain publishing conglomerates and Amazon.com. The publishing conglomerates, for the sake of public opinion, are trying to present themselves as David versus Goliath. Perhaps, there may be some truth to this. But frankly, as far as most writers are concerned, the writers themselves are little Davids and the now five publishing conglomerates are five Goliaths.


The publishing conglomerates complain that Amazon.com is only motivated by business concerns. However, are publishing conglomerates much different?


Should writers take a side in the struggle? I don't know, what do you guys think?


I remember what it was like before Amazon.com, and before the Internet. Back then, there were even fewer options for the independent (self-published) author. The development of the Internet, and the creation of Amazon.com, has been a big help to the independent author.


Of course, there are dangers that Amazon.com may become a dictatorship in the publishing business, because of its increasing power as a middleman in the book market.


Of course, we all disagree about lots of things when it comes to writing. And that's good! The more disagreement there is amongst us about what writing is or should be, the greater the variety of writing that will exist as a result. And the more variety of writing there is, the more variety of writing there is for readers to choose from!

But, almost all of us have something in common. The publishing conglomerates are not our allies. In fact, they are obstacles to our goals as independent authors. Right?


Maybe not. Many self-publishing companies that make it possible for us to be an independent author are actually owned by publishing conglomerates.


One of the New York Times articles about the publishing industry stated that self-published authors are perhaps a bigger threat to the publishing conglomerates than Amazon. Is this true? The publishing conglomerates, with their self-publishing sections, can make money off of both authors and readers. In addition, with self-publishing, the big conglomerates don't need to hire editors. In other words, with self-publishing the publishing conglomerates simultaneously make more money per book, and spend less money per book.


Interestingly, Amazon doesn't really need to sell books anyway, as books are now only a small part of Amazon's business.


What I'm now thinking, and this is the important part, is what do we need Amazon and even the self-publishers for? Imagine if readers could download our books straight from our websites, for example, without the middlemen. The price of books could go down to two or three dollars, or whatever the author felt like charging. Since royalties are between $1-$3 per book, why charge more?


By cutting out the middlemen, which in this case is the big publishing corporations and Amazon.com, both the writers and the readers come out the winner. The readers spend a lot less money per book. In addition, bringing the price of books down to $1-$3 per book will increase readership tremendously! More people will buy more books than ever! Books will be more accessible to the poor than ever before! This will be great for literary culture, and may help eliminate some of the snobbery still found in the literary world. And it will also be great for the bottom line of writers! The vast majority of writers will have a larger audience than ever, and more of them will be able to survive off their writing than ever before.


Best-selling authors might tend to prefer the status quo, as a small number of writers are doing well under the status quo. But on the other hand, even the best-selling author might do better by eliminating the middlemen. That's because the price of his books will go down from $10 or $20 to a dollar or two, thus readership would probably go up up up! Method of payment could be PayPal or something like that.


Readers and writers have everything to gain.


Once an author dies perhaps his book can become free. What does the author care after he dies? The readers have everything to gain from such an arrangement. What do we need publishing conglomerates for? What do we need Amazon.com for?


(Something should be done, by the way, to make sure that a writer's work doesn't die with him. God only knows how many great manuscripts wound up in the trash bin when a writer died.)


Anyway, the publishing conglomerates might go the way of the horse-and-buggy makers. People may talk about their emotional attachment to a traditional book that they can "hold in their hand." But who's going to want to fork out 10 to 20 bucks for a book when they can get an e-book for $1-$2 off some author's website? This is the future perhaps, especially as advancements in technology make computer screens increasingly easy on the eyes.

Maybe we're not there yet, especially regarding the computer screens being easier on the eyes. Many people claim that a Kindle is as easy on the eyes as a book. I'm skeptical. But progress is being made. And when all computer screens are as easy-to-read off as paper you can pretty much kiss traditional books goodbye. Traditional books will go the way of the CD. And once that happens it will be possible to eliminate publishing corporations, and even Amazon.com, as middlemen.