Publishing can become wholly sustainable in ways it never might have considered before.
Traditionally, publishers talked about channels of distribution. You know, feeding the many markets that were used to get books into readers’ hands. this meant they were talking about bookstores, libraries, and the various types of distributors who sold the publishers’ books to the numerous outlets. Creating these channels was like digging canals in the beginning. These canals opened physical links for publishers to keep their bookselling businesses humming along.
Now, however, business trends, profitability shifts, the larger global financial markets have placed publishing into a volatile set of disturbing new currents. These new business models forced onto publishing don’t work, can’t work and don’t follow from how this kind of business functions. In order for publishing to survive and thrive, we need to re-think how we publish and sell books for today.
The channels don’t exist in the same forms. Bookstores, those magical places we formerly gathered in to browse and buy, have withered. Their replacements, brightly lit, large warehouse-type superstores are becoming the dinosaurs of the retail world.
A larger, more disturbing trend also took root in the last 15 years or so–Amazon–and it has become both predator and evil genie, opening bottles of delicious
s(m)elling possibilities, only to then put the stopper back in the bottle.
The bait and switch will not end until those who have come to rely too heavily on these forms of solutions to marketing (finding their real channels of distribution lie in both the return to the bookstore owned or managed by them ((or partnering with libraries)) and to establishing ecommerce on their own websites for all digital distribution).
An example of a new retrenching by Amazon has stirred up some bad press and also some very worried affiliates whose whole business model depended on the previous arrangement they had with Amazon.
The best news about these solutions is this–we can transform book publishing into a green, growth industry that relies on 100% carbon neutral powered websites. Buildings can be LEED designed or retrofitted. Publishers can help to promote more sustainable, earth-friendly practices and disseminate that news into communities through satellite stores or alliances with library systems.
We have much work to do for this to happen. The way forward is to realize it is quite an easy proposition. We’re not re-inventing the wheel. We’re taking existing structures and re-calibrating them. We’re taking a very old business and giving it new life. This, my friends, is the change that must happen for the book business to stay in business.