The world of publishing, publishers, physical books and journals, bookshops and libraries is changing. We have seen the demise of many bookshops and although some booksellers are bravely declaring that there will always be a place for physical shops I am now less certain about that that I was 12 months ago.
- The much-loved facility to browse book-shelves and serendipitiously find something attractive is gradually being replicated on-line. One can not only search for very specific topics but one can also browse through lists of book covers according to general topics.
- The ability to read through a potential purchase to ascertain one’s level of interest is matched by the facility whereby one can download a free sample of the book.
- The immediacy of the bookshop purchase (you have it in your hands to take home immediately) is being challenged by instantaneous wireless delivery from wherever there is phone coverage.
- The pleasure of a book with real pages is seriously threatened by the attractions of e-readers that provide text in whatever size your eye-sight desires. (OK, I admit that I am old enough to absolutely love this facility! I did not realize how advantageous it would be until I started to use it!). They will also read to you if you need that.
- The e-reader gives one access to journals: the first thing I did with my Kindle was to download around 50 articles from JSTOR in pdf format which I emailed to my Kindle via Amazon who convert it into a very readable text format. I am reading more journal articles now than ever before.
- The e-reader is not merely a book – it is a whole library in one’s hands. The journals I downloaded to my kindle came on top of 50 or so e-books (theological tomes, historical texts, poetry, humour, novels and other prose) that I had always thought I would like to look at – downloaded from places like project Gutenberg. And so I now have a personally selected library that I carry around and read whenever time or opportunity provide me with a few minutes of reading time. My curiosity with many of these books and articles is satisfied after 10 minutes or so, but because there is neither effort nor cost in obtaining them why not give them a try! And many have been delightful reads.
- The e-reader is economical. I have, indeed, purchased books for my Kindle, but just two so far, which may reflect either my skinflint nature or the fact that there are millions of great books available that are completely free! But there will be many more purchases to come and so far I have saved $30 on two books, which goes to offsetting the $260 I paid for the reader. Cost savings are a strong attraction.
- The environment is helped: I no longer have piles of photocopies of journal articles that I hope to read one day (but which, according to Murphy’s law, are never close to hand when I feel like reading them). Not only do I always have them at hand on my e-reader but the new process is saving paper.
In addition to all this I reckon that publishers will soon be facing the same threat as booksellers. Publishers and booksellers have been the businesses that have traditionally stood between authors and readers. They have provided a service, connecting and facilitating the communication of ideas but, just as bookshops are threatened by on-line sales, so too are publishers threatened by on-line publishing.
Publishing through Amazon, for instance, is now so easy (all you need is a MSWord document) and a self-published book (perhaps with some good commendations from exactly the people that a publisher would use) will appear in a search list alongside the Eerdmans, OUP, IVP and Baker publications on similar themes, complete with cover image, blurb and recommendations. All at a cost the author determines and completely under their control. If a paper copy is definitely needed, that can be arranged (separately) through on-demand printing. In the world of fiction writing there are already writers who have sold over a million copies solely on line. Who would say no to 70% (royalty) of (say) $3.99 (book price) times a million? In an era when electronic reading is going to supplant paper printing publishers will have to demonstrate added value to be able to survive.
The processes outlined here bring the author into a more direct and immediate relationship with the reader. The traditional intermediaries may well be replaced by Google, Amazon and other on-line services.
The processes that are taking place here are being replicated, albeit with variations, in other areas that involve the communication of ideas between an originator and a user: there are obvious implications for theological and bible colleges, but that is another story.
This brings us to the present publisher – Crucible. It means that our best times are ahead. We offer original ideas freely to readers. If you want to make money don’t come to Crucible. We are interested in the transmission of ideas for the sake of the gospel and we offer on-line publishing with, as required, peer-reviewed, quality control.
Think about Crucible as the place where you publish your next article.
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