How Can Traditional Publishers Benefit from More Experimentation?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s lead story features an interview with digital innovator James Bridle, a man who says that what he does primarily is “experiment” with books. The results have been telling — some failures, which he’s reluctant to discuss, but many notable victories — not the least of which is his recent production of a 12-volume historiography of the changes made to the Wikipedia page for the war in Iraq (see our piece for details).

Over the past decade publishers have made numerous tentative efforts to experiment with the form and content of books. But, their core business — selling hardcovers and paperbacks to customers through bookstores — is itself a $50 billion global business and, as such, requires proper care and feeding. Experimentation has been left largely to the fringes. Should publishers take a more direct line and institutionalize experimentation as part of their publishing programs. Google offers, for example, its workers time to focus on their own personal passion projects — a program that has been highly touted in the press, but one they admit has led to only a handful of innovations.

Should traditional, conglomerate publishers do the same? What would be the benefits? What practical form could this take? And, if you know, can you offer examples where it’s already being done?

Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.