Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Is Happening to the Publishing Business? Watch Philip Evans' TED Talk: How Data Will Transform Business

A highly recommended, brief, business-oriented TED talkTake home point: the nature and role of institutions (plug in "publishing house" here) are defined by transactions costs. Transaction costs are plummeting because the economics of communicating and processing information are plummeting. Ergo, as Philip Evans puts it, "technology is driving the institutional boundaries beyond where we are used to thinking about them." 
After having published several books with publishers ranging from bloatedly large (Random House-Mondadori) and small (University of Georgia Press), I went ahead and self-published my most recent work, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. It wasn't that I couldn't sell it, I couldn't see, and I still cannot see, how it would make sense for me to do otherwise.

Evans talks about polarizing scale (little ol' me can publish a book out of my home office now) and the breaking up of the "value chain"-- value chain in the past as seen in a publishing house's multitude of employees, from acquiring editors to sales reps. But I can now very easily, at the click of a button, hire a freelance editor, freelance book designer, cover designer, and so on. As for printing, binding, distribution, and fulfillment, that's easy, too. And isn't all amazon. There will also be iTunes and Gumroad editions. And more.

But enough about the book biz. What will these sea-changes mean for how we buy food, clothing, and so many services? It's already very interesting. And I haven't set foot in a mall in an age.