Relax. The mega-conglomerates are taking over publishing and that is a good thing.
Emmett Stinson, author, poet, academic and president of SPUNC, Australia’s only advocacy group for small presses, says digital convergence in publishing is taking us to a brighter future. It’s good for writers, it’s good for small publishers and it has never, ever, been better for readers.
“I would argue that now is the best time in the history of the world to be a reader,” Stinson told the EWF’s ‘Trends in Publishing’ session. “You can get any book you want, you can get it easily, you can get it in multiple formats. If it’s an e-book, you can get it immediately.
“It’s easier in other ways too. You don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t have to go to a bookstore, you don’t have to interact with another human being at that book store if you don’t want. This is the thing we’ve got to remember. These changes are occurring because they are better. They are fundamentally better.”
Stinson said massive companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon would become the most important companies in publishing, dwarfing traditional publishing houses. But this would create more opportunities for smaller players.
“This is the trend we are seeing, the paradoxical truth,” he said. “We are seeing this massive conglomeration at the top but also this democratisation and productive anarchy at the bottom and, at the end of the day, readers will be benefiting from all of it.”
Stinson described what was happening below the sightline of the big players as ‘productive anarchy’.
“That’s because not only individual authors but small publishers as well suddenly have access to this entire network of global distribution that, previously, only very large companies had access to with material books,” he said.
“And what this means is that all these smaller players at the bottom of the chain are going to be able to do really interesting things. They are going to find new business models and new ways to make money on margins.
“This is actually a good thing for authors in the grand scheme of things as well. Especially if you are in an area that might previously have been more of a niche. There will be more opportunities for you to actually find an audience, to connect with the audience and also, more economically, to make some money from that audience as well. So this is, I think, quite an exciting possibility.”
Stinson’s view echoes the optimism of the ‘Death of Print’ panel at the Perth Writers Festival earlier this year, in which James Bradley compared the current ructions in publishing to developments in the music industry 10 to 15 years ago.
Bradley said the democratisation of the means of making and distributing music unleashed an exciting new wave of originality and creativity in that industry and this was beginning to happen in publishing.
Exciting. That was the common word. And it is. If you don’t work in traditional publishing.