1). All books get converted to ebooks.
2). Everybody becomes comfortable with this.
3). Maybe the size of all the ebooks in the world is a terabyte or something.
4). A terabyte starts costing fifty bucks.
5). Suddenly you don't have to make a million agonizing moral decisions about whether or not to steal a book that you want...
6). ...you have to make one moral decision once. Do I steal ALL of books? Do I download the file "books.TPB" that will take seven minutes? Do I send troops to Spain and fight the Spanish in the jungles for the opportunity to break my back digging gold out of the goddamn ground, or do I wait for Spain to send her treasure galleon home and then ambush it with one dinky ship filled with thirty ugly cutthroats?
7). Every human will make the decision to download "books.TPB" eventually.
SO WHAT ELSE CAN PUBLISHERS SELL THAT IS NOT AN EBOOK (worthless) BUT THAT TURNS INTO AN EBOOK IF THAT IS HOW PEOPLE READ?
NOTE: Even if we police the crap out of this, some other country will steal all of English books and give them away to destabilize our economy or just because it is hilarious. And then we will do the same thing to Chinese or Russian books or whatever. Dialectical hilarity. Dialarity. The New Faith of the internet.
1). Sell "seeds": digital sculptures that cannot be copied, which contain all the possible iterations of an ebook (and POD book designs), and can be updated when linked to the internet.
These seeds can also be used as empty storage space if necessary, but even empty they are still a signifier of the art and intellectual property inside. Also, a seed can contain audiobooks, movies, and all manner of extras designed to create a Discrete Item that is as valuable as possible. No more bookstores. Seedstores.
Note: Here's how to sell the "Harry Potter" ebooks, for instance.
2). Sell an interactive, community book experience -- access to a website dedicated to each book that includes comment-able paragraph trees, message board discussion, errata, extras, dating opportunities, and all sorts of strange internet bullshit.
3). Begin publishing books as installments in online literary magazines again. Unwritten plots cannot be stolen (yet).
4). Do no more sweetheart deals with Amazon, Google, or Apple. Begin to see them as competition. As publishers, throw your lot in with pirates to create products that compete against film, television, and the internet entertainment experience in order to give people the Bread of the Fucking Spirit they are missing. Make books hard to get again! Impregnable fortresses of Fiction Crack!
5). Push hard for POD distribution in bookstores across the country. Subsidize this if you have to. Start with the college bookstores who can afford it, and once the bugs are worked out, roll this over to independent bookstores in urban centers. You do not have to remainder POD books. POD books are not synonymous with "self-publishing." It is just a far, far better distribution platform for cheap paperbacks, which is a huge USED market that publishers aren't seeing a dime on.
6). Send writers on tour in packs to raise the profile of readings. Don't just send one writer around the country to do readings: send five, and turn these readings into events for which writers practice and prepare. Make readings into spectacles that get people excited about reading and literature. Use music and multimedia, and stop doing "signings" which are recockulous and make both authors and fans feel dead inside.
7). Increase the amount of publications that have book review sections and short fiction sections. Short fiction is the cornerstone of American literature. If people like somebody's short stories, then they will look for that author in a bookstore and find their novels. Increase the online presence of book review indexes and short story magazine databases. Why is there no literature section on Digg, for instance? Exert pressure. Make this happen. Put literature wherever people are reading. Shove fiction into people's politics if you must.
8). Agents should create greater submissions transparency! One reason Amazon is eating everyone's lunch so hard is the speed and transparency of their manuscript submissions system. You must stop disrespecting the slush pile. When you submit a novel to Amazon for their contests, they track it and tell you when it is rejected and why. Sure, lots of people write bad novels. THESE ARE YOUR AUDIENCE. Also, people who write a bad novel now might write a good novel later. People feel like Amazon respects them. Respect fiction writers, even if they are not ready for a wide audience yet.
9). Why the fuck do you ignore Ed Champion so hard? Give that man money. Make him famous. He works harder for you than basically anyone that you employ. Publishers should push to increase his visibility, to increase his volume, and to increase his access. His interviews with authors are the best interviews available today. He is a one man Paris Review! DOES HE HAVE CIA CONNECTIONS? WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? Are you afraid of his integrity? Weird.
10). Treat fiction like entertainment and hire people who can sell fiction as entertainment. NOTE: anybody who went to an Ivy League school for larks or who can afford to intern for free will not be able to do this. You need fucking thugs. Book thugs. I believe they even have their own bookstore down in Brooklyn now.
11). Know this: the prestige of validation that once was your currency is quickly fading away. People under twenty will not fight to let you publish them unless you are doing something that they couldn't do themselves much easier and much more effectively.
There will never be a return to a golden age of publishing. There never was such an age. Reading has always been a strange, niche activity for solitary weirdos. However, there are more solitary weirdos now more than ever.
The next few decades could be the golden age of publishing if publishers strategize correctly.
Instead of worrying about distribution, marketing, money, and technology, publishers could worry about Fiction again -- outsourcing these problems and forming tight editorial cabals that have taste and sense.
Converting your entire book catalog to proprietary code in order to reach a small number of rich readers is the worst idea possible.
Apple, Amazon, and Google are reinvesting the money they have already taken from you to con you into thinking this is a good idea so that you will relinquish the rest of your market share. Who do you think pays for all those seminars, think tanks, and ebook slide shows? Do not be foolish.
These corporations don't give a fuck whether they sell books or not. They just want traffic for ads. Best case scenario for them: all books are free and people never leave their computers, buying worthless leisure goods constantly to keep themselves feeling balanced and safe.
Literature is supposed to shake up the secure and give succor to the broken-hearted. There is enough money in this for the project to sustain itself, but the money is not where you seem to think it is.
Posted by miracle on Fri, 30 Apr 2010 15:44:27 -0500 -- permanent link