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Will e-books make traditional publishers irrelevant?

June 22, 2009

Tags: e-books, book publishing

"The reason you make money as a publisher is that authors believe your participation adds value," writes Bryan Rosner, in a fascinating story for IBPA, the independent publishers association. "Although editing and graphic design are important, the major area in which you add value involves your knowledge of, and access to, printing and distribution resources. If you’re publishing e-books, authors may decide they don’t need you."

"I am not at all excited about e-books," writes Rosner. "I believe they pose threats to profitability for most book publishers." Among the threats posed by a focus on e-books only: the publisher will be less attractive to authors.

"The process of converting a Microsoft Word document into a PDF file for download is much simpler (or at least, perceived to be much simpler) than the process of engaging the services of an offset printer and dealing with all those thousands of books that come off the press. If e-books are sold more than printed books, the publishers’ added value may seem irrelevant."

You can read Bryan Rosner's story here, and you can also read other articles in the IBPA archives (Independent Book Publishers of America).

There's a round-up of links to stories on e-book markets, rights, and audiences under
Publishing and e-publishing on Writers and Editors


  1. May 30, 2010 11:57 AM EDT
    Apple reveals new service for authors to sell their books directly in the iBookstore (David W. Martin, MacLife, 5-26-10). You no longer have to use a service like Smashwords to put your book in Apple's iBookstore.
    - PM
  2. November 12, 2010 10:05 AM EST
    The Trouble with E-Readers by David Pogue (Scientific American Nov 2010). Electronic books are still far too crude to replace ink and paper, writes Pogue. They're pricey, pages turn slowly, they're copy-protected so you can read them only on the technology for which you bought them (each company using a different protection scheme), you can't pass a book along to a friend when you've finished it (the way you could a printed book), and you're unlikely to be able to read it years hence, when technologies have changed.
    - PM