e-book and print books

Will the Digital Age Be a Golden Age for Small Publishers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

e-book and print booksIn real estate it comes down to location, location, location. For so long, the same applied to visibility in bookstores. Publishers paid heavy fees for prime placement in big box stores (they still do) to get under the eyeballs of customers. In the digital age, when we’re all peering at screens, and the limited real estate and endless assortment of titles, “search” arguably takes priority over the “serendipity” of browsing.

In today’s feature story, Chad W. Post, publisher of Open Letter Books — a small publisher of translated literary fiction, points out:

We’re small, therefore ignorable by everyone from the New York Times to the local bookstore in Omaha, Nebraska, and we publish books by authors with “unpronounceable” names, which are supposedly a huge turnoff to American readers.

We can publish the best books in the world, but getting them into the hands of readers—at least through traditional means—is a massive challenge.

Yet, he notes there is an opportunity:

This is daunting to some, exciting to others. For a small press looking to do books that fit a particular niche (a la Open Letter), this is a fantastic situation. Unlike years past when we fought for space in the same five review outlets and tried to convince the same booksellers to handsell our books, we can now go directly to our customers, and can cultivate an audience in ways that never existed before.

That opportunity — namely to cultivate an audience — has eluded most small publishers until now. But it is the essential ingredient to building a successful publishing business. Digital flattens the terrain, makes all real estate accessible, if not outright cheap.

Could the digital age be a golden age for small publishers?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.