Will Publishers Perish?

As self-publishing gets easier, the book business faces a major shake-out.

Book publishing is a storied industry. According to industry legends, Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer founded Random House in the 1920s to publish "a few books... at random." Sir Allen Lane set up England's Penguin Books in the 1930s after he couldn't find a good paperback to read while waiting for a train. When I covered the London stock market in the late 1990s, I occasionally wrote about a small-cap publishing company called Bloomsbury: No one had heard of them -- until they discovered a new children's author and some books she'd written about a boy wizard.

Today there are 70,000 Americans working for book publishers, about 15% less than a decade ago. Many thousands more work as agents, editors, designers and printers. I wish them all well. But I suspect they all need to start typing their resumes. I can't see how this industry survives. Indeed, I fear the end is nigh.

The good news is that it's never been easier to become an author. That novel -- or novel idea -- you've been nursing all these years? You can get it out there, in a matter of days.
I've just written a biography of Mitt Romney, based (in part) on my notes from my days as a columnist on the Boston Herald when Romney was governor of Massachusetts. I'm self-publishing it, through Amazon. The process is so fast and easy it makes me wonder why anyone would go to a traditional publisher ever again.
(The main downside is that you do not get an advance. In this instance, my biggest risk is that Romney will blow the election with his gaffes before I can reach the shelves.)
Yes, there's been a learning process. I've had to pick up a bit about formats and templates. But I'm a technological Luddite -- and even I've mastered it. In simple terms, you copy your text into a Microsoft Word template and upload it. You can then design your own cover in Photoshop and upload that too, or use one of their templates. That's about it. It takes about two days to get your proof back, and a few more days to launch the book. Then it's available, like any other, at Amazon.com.
I'm also publishing the book on the Kindle, and that's even easier -- about twelve hours from uploading your document to publication.
Full story at Smart Money