The Power Shift in Publishing

When a panel on the future publishing includes a robust discussion of HTML5 and a debate on the tenacity of InDesign, you get the hint that things are changing.

When one of the panelists says that “it’s not the publisher’s job to determine what should be published and what shouldn’t,” the writing is on the wall: there are new power players in this industry, and maybe even a whole new set of rules.

The panel in question took place at the GigaOm office in San Francisco on August 25th. “Author to Audience: Disintermediation in the Publishing Industry,” was moderated by VP of research at GigaOm Pro Michael Wolf. It gathered industry innovators and experts to assess whether the rise of the e-book spells doom for the traditional publisher.

Panelists from Adobe, Scribd, Smashwords and of course, our own Brad Inman from Vook never suggested that traditional publishers would be out of the picture, but they did emphasize that now, the real power is the hand of the reader.

Readers will choose what they read, or as Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords said, “The power of curation is going to shift from the publishers to the crowd- the readers.’

They will also choose how they read. Brad emphasized, “what we like is that people can choose. You can go to ibooks and get Seth Godin with or without video.”

Amid the sea of self-publishing opportunities and endless e-readers, audiences will interact directly with authors and determine what content rises to the top. John Warren, Marketing Director, Publications at RAND Corporation, speculated that a time will come when readers can pay writers to change the course of their narrative, or have characters named after them.

Regardless of whether it gets that far, reader likes and dislikes may come to determine the fate of book authors, just as they do now with content on Web. In the future of publishing, the people have the power.

Get Seth Godin’s “Unleashing the SUPERIdeavirus” with video in the iBooks store: here.

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