Publish or Perish

I recently read the online edition of an insightful article by media maven Ken Auletta from the April 26, 2010 issue of The New Yorker titled “Publish or Perish: Can the iPad Topple the Kindle and Save the Book Business?” and highly recommend reading it at It is invaluable material for anyone involved in publishing today.

To get a comprehensive perspective of publishing’s challenges Auletta interviews several industry insiders for the article, including Amazon vice president of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti, who personally thinks that publishers are asking the wrong questions about the future.

According to Grandinetti, the real competition is not between traditional books and e-books. “TV, movies, Web browsing, video games are all competing for people’s valuable time. And if the book doesn’t compete we think that over time the industry will suffer,” Auletta quotes Grandinetti as saying. Consequently, Grandinetti suggests that to thrive publishers have to reimagine the book as multimedia entertainment.

Auletta reports that, along with others, David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, is actively embedding audio and video and other value-added features in e-books. According to Auletta, Rosenthal says that the iPad “has opened up the possibility that we are no longer dealing with a static book. You have tremendous possibilities.”

Whoever wins the e-book sweepstakes, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: readers want what they want when they want it and the publishers who are ready, willing, and able to accommodate them will profit by meeting the need for convenient, cost-effective delivery of compelling content.

The Changing Bookscape

I blogged about what I call the changing bookscape about a year ago in a couple of postings titled “Print is Dead” and “More Print is Dead,” based on observations from a book with the title of Print is Dead by author Jeff Gomez. I won’t repeat the conversation here but its thoughts are echoed in a compelling article in the Wall Street Journal by writer Steven Johnson titled “How the E-book Will Change the Way We Read and Write.” It is must reading for publishing professionals and can be read in its entirety by visiting

More Print is Dead

Due to time and space constraints, I saved some of my thoughts about the book Print is Dead for a second subsequent post here. At the end of the book, author Jeff Gomez outlines “Five reasons publishers will still exist in a digital age” and so I’ll list them:

Find talentWith millions online, finding anything worth consuming is getting more difficult. “With so much content already out there, and more being produced each day, publishers will fill an important need and perform a valuable service by reaching into the digital slush pile and pulling out the pearls.”
Support talent...The Internet is great for making an initial splash, but not for turning that splash into a career. “So while it’s sometimes too easy to get an audience online, that exposure is only really useful if it’s in support of something that users can interact with apart from the vehicle that brought the initial exposure.”
Edit talentEven geniuses need editors. “Without editors, books or electronic texts will simply be blogs in a different package.”
Expose and market talentAs more authors are discovered online, more authors are promoted online. “Using the power of the Internet, publishers will do numerous things to expose and market writers to online communities, including creating banner ads, interactive websites and blogs, as well as performing outreach to bloggers and Internet reading groups.”
Pay talentThe Internet creates communities, but it doesn’t pay them. “What publishers will continue to do is sell the works of artists in the marketplace, and then pay royalties on those sales.”

I highly recommend anyone involved with the publishing industry to read and digest the book Print is Dead. It is one of the top couple of books I have read about publishing and I can unequivocally state that it is an invaluable guide to the uncharted territory that lies ahead for writers, editors and other wordsmiths involved with the creation of content.

Print is Dead

To give credit to whom credit is due, I learned about the book Print is Dead on Thomas Nelson publisher Mike Hyatt’s blog located at I pay attention when someone of his stature describes a book as “must reading,” and it did not disappoint. The premise of the author, Jeff Gomez, himself a publishing executive, is not that books are bound to disappear, but that the delivery of books as we know them will change radically, namely via digital systems. In other words, the news for past, present, and prospective authors is “digitize or die.”

I had read about half of the book on my way to speak at a recent conference for aspiring authors, and without having come to this part of the book, I found myself saying to them that “if you don’t have some sort of online presence, then you may need to rethink your viability as an author,” even going so far as to query, “if someone Googles you and finds nothing about you, do you really exist?”

An excerpt of the book, the chapter titled “Writers in a Digital Future,” is available for free download at and it echoes my thoughts exactly: “Authors who choose not to take part in any sort of online promotion or to curry online exposure, and are unwilling to do things like start a blog, post clips on YouTube, have a page on MySpace or otherwise engage an Internet audience in any meaningful way will find themselves at an increasing disadvantage.”