Some interesting things have happened in the digital publishing industry recently. Andrew Wylie has struck a deal with Amazon to exclusively publish a number of authors for two year. Check out this article. I am a big fan of digital publishing – it holds so many opportunities for the owner-creator. The ramifications for Mr Wylie’s endeavour are huge, and other people have begun to go into this far better than I am likey to be able to. In particular, chack out what Michael Stackpole has to say about it all.
As big a fan of ebooks and digital publishing that I am, I have concerns too. In particular, I am worried about a market being flooded with self-published dross that a reader / purchaser must somehow dig through in rder to get to the “gold”. It is exactly what happened in the RPG industry with the introduction of the Open Game License and the rise of pdf sales sites like RPGnow. There was a boom in products that were compatible with the d20 game, and a lot of it was terrible. Something like 60 new products are published to DriveThruRPG a week – that is a massive number, too much for any individual to ever keep up with. “Publishers” (usually individuals in their basements) that went down the road of producing hardcopy books probably did it even tougher because the sheer number of products that became available were too great for hobby shops to stock them all. As a consequence product lines suffered, sales dropped and it is possible that writers and creators with real potential got lost in the mess.
A lot of micro-companies (that is, guys in their basements) went bust. Some grew to become real a presence in the RPG industry (Fantasy Flight, Privateer Press and Green Ronin Publishing all began as d20 pdf publishers). Things got sorted and these companies now operate much like “the big guys” did. Some of these companies are the big guys!
When it comes to ebooks I would hate to be confronted with an even bigger choice than I already have when I go to Amazon, and not have some way of telling the good stuff from the average stuff from the truly aweful stuff. That is what publishers are good for – doing the sorting for me. I like Tor Books, or the Black Library novels, or whatever else, I know that is a good place to start. That is why it is frustrating that publishing companies don’t seem to be getting it. Some of them are really resistant to making ebooks accessible to readers and (apparently) viable by authors. It is no wonder that authors are looking to set-up shop for themselves, or with the aid of agents like Andrew Wylie. I just wonder what the digital book scene will look like in five years time – is it going to be a mess of books impossible to sort through, or will we see the rise of new “big guys”, people willing to take chances and explore new ways of making ideas into products.