There is writing on the wall? Let me get my glasses…

The written world is changing. It has changed consistently through the years, but with the recent digitization of the publishing industry and print world, there’s a new word that keeps popping up that’s going to have an effect on traditional publishing houses: “paperless.” Sure, the market for printed works, hard copies, hasn’t died yet, and it may not ever, but some people, like David Carnoy, seem to believe it’s coming. The price of self-published ebooks is what he believes will kill the industry, and he has a point. Traditional publishers can’t keep up with self-published ebook prices, that is a plain and simple fact. Now, they have even further competition from Amazon who is offering other publishing related services along with distribution of their books. Their royalty system encourages affordable prices, and no matter the price chosen, an author will still get a higher royalty rate self-publishing an ebook through Amazon’s Kindle platform than through a traditional publisher. They also allow for fluidity of pricing, allowing authors to manipulate the system to stay on “bestselling” lists longer. And with lower prices come lower expectations, so that edit you’d get at a traditional publishing house? Maybe it’s no longer necessary. Maybe.

So where does this actually leave traditional publishing houses? Not in a good spot, apparently. With authors seeking out their own editors and designers and publishing their ebooks through platforms like Amazon’s Powered by Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s PubIt, traditional houses seem less necessary for ebooks. Then there’s Amazon’s Encore program that notices popular self-published books and gives them an extra marketing boost. Unless an author really desires to have their book in print, or doesn’t have the time seek out their own editors/designers, why go to a traditional publisher? If there’s a larger push for “paperless” operations due to environmental concerns, and writers can publish ebooks without a publishing house, what will happen to them? They still have an argument of offering the highest quality, but that may not last long if publishers continue to get their editorial work done out of house; authors can start or continue to employ freelance editors just as readily as publishing houses provided they have the necessary funds. Now necessary services like marketing are also being offered by outside sources. Taking all of this into account, Carnoy believes that traditional publishing houses are aging, antiquated, outdated, and nearing being replaced. Can they see the writing on the wall? How long can traditional publishing houses sustain operations with competition from self-publishers and outside organizations? How long will they be able to, in effect, defy gravity?

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