Where Publishing Is Heading

I’ve been the Publisher of BenBella for ten years now, and it’s truly awe-inspiring to consider the amount of change this industry has experienced in this time. And to think that I created BenBella to join the sedate publishing industry!

The Nation has a great overview of what’s happening now, particularly Amazon’s rise to an industry-redefining power. I have no complaints about these shifts in the industry, as we are thriving. Our 2011 net trade sales were triple 2008 net sales (43% annual growth) and our year to date growth in trade sales is 37%. So these shifts aren’t exactly killing us.

We are better positioned for these changes than the large houses, but we are not immune. The key, I think (or hope), is to be as clear-eyed as possible about what’s really happening. This can be difficult. As Upton Sinclair said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

For us, the focus is always on partnering with authors to add value to their books through shaping and focusing (editorial), packaging, and marketing. I believe that if we do this well we will thrive. The other things publishers sometimes talk about – i.e. curation (adding value to consumers by sorting out the wheat from the chaff) or distribution (important now but continually shrinking in importance under pressure from Amazon) – are either delusional or ephemeral, in my view.

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