Will E-books Make or Break Independent Publishers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s lead story is a profile of Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. In the article, Lependorf notes that one of the priorities going forward is to help small and independent presses to traverse the tricky digital landscape. The CLMP is assisting them with issues such as digital conversion and distribution.

Earlier this month at Frankfurt, I asked the question “Does Size Matter?” and suggested that small, agile publishers may have an advantage in certain areas of digital publishing, in particular, bringing books to market quickly. What’s more, in terms of marketing and distribution, the Internet is essentially “flat,” which allows even the smallest publisher to create a huge presence online — provided they have the means. As Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks has pointed out time and time again, most recently during her TOC: Frankfurt talk, “The True Cost of Going Digital,” digital isn’t cheaper than print, just different (and often more complicated). Large publishers will always have the advantage over independent publishers of economies of scale, which will allow them to produce titles with somewhat more efficiency and, presumably, profitability.

Nevertheless, the e-book revolution is finally taking hold and looks to be a huge opportunity for independent publishers. As business models adjust, indie publishers — like OR Books — will be able to offer some authors similar terms as the big boys. And on many fronts they will be able to compete in more ways than before. At the same time, as real world distribution for small presses becomes only more problematic (shrinking shelf space, the shift of book buyers to big box retailers), e-books look to be the one thing that can make or break independent publishers in the long term. Which way will it go?

Let us know what you think 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.