I’ve written several posts about the challenges facing the publishing industry and how their continued existence—at least in their current form—is looking increasingly tenuous. Just today Charlie Stross described the Internet as a “communication tool that tends to disintermediate supply and demand” and, sadly, disintermediation is biggest threat to publishers.
Jason Crawford has a provocative post entitled Startup idea: Turnkey self-publishing service for authors. In it he tells the story of a friend who self published a book and the things he had to do as his own publisher. Then Crawford throws out a startup idea: Provide a turnkey, fee-for-service publishing service. It would be pretty much like a typical publisher except that the author would pay an up front fee and then keep all the profits from the book.
Yes, there are problems to be solved with this idea but it’s probably not as hard as you might imagine. In the first place, almost everything a publisher does is farmed out: copy editors, technical editors, typesetting, printing, and so on. These people are already free-lance and would, I’m sure, be just as happy to work for a service such as this as they are to work for traditional publishers.
This idea, even if it comes to fruition, isn’t, by itself, a lethal threat to publishers but when you add in all the other threats that I’ve written about before, the threat seems more immediate.