So the excellent Irish publisher Eoin Purcell reviews my Publishing Perspectives editorial and provides a nice exegesis.
He is concerned about a few dimensions of it, and I thought it would make sense to respond to this, as I think that the problems he perceives lie in my poor expression of the ideas, rather than the not-poor ideas themselves.
HIs chiefest concern has to do with what he’s coined “Publishing as a Service (PaS)”–“the idea that if publishers want to survive they should adapt to become facilitators of the people who are creating and consuming content.” He contrasts this notion with one recently elaborated by Mike Shatzkin who believes “the focus should be on curating those niches and in re-engineering a publishing portfolio around a vertical segment.” He advocates that a new publishing enterprise not choose only one of those options, especially not the first only, lest “they have become software engineers.”
in large part his concern is that publishers not reinvent the wheel–“I don’t think that most publishers should spend their time creating design software or better printing presses, leave that to the odd genius who happens to also be a publisher or the software programmer.” I absolutely agree. I can’t specifically speak for Andrew Savikas (who outlines his most current thinking here in a excellent essay, Content is a Service Business) but I know that I have no intention of building anything from scratch. My understanding of Publishing as a Service Business is to distinguish it from one that sells a product in a supply chain, a peddler of tchotchkes. It does not exclude the notion that we would create physical objects, preferably gorgeous, expensive, high margin ones that are never returned and that the purchaser passes onto the next generation, it rather advocates for a mentality, a philosophy, a corporate culture, that is a service, rather than manfacturing-and-distribution one. Much in the way that Zappos is a service business.
Indeed, I concur still further with Eoin in that, as he writes, “far better for us to spend time curating and filtering content, because filtering is what the web needs.” Even more so when he argues that “that doesn’t necessarily mean gate-keeping [for] we may be facilitating the filtering-by-readers within a community, rather than choosing what floats.” Nicely put, sir!
He again warns, don’t reinvent the wheel, and I again concur. I do use (in fact in the “About” page of my blog) the admonition “Now is time to build their infrastructure” but I mean it more metaphorically. I don’t mean invent the infrastructure–I simply mean let’s take all the existing tools out there and start to put them together in the appropriate configurations. This will involve levels of customization, tweaking, both of the software itself and of the user interfaces, and of any number of business processes. And that’s the process I wish to embark on, as soon as possible. I’m not going to invent a new kind of brick, but it is time to figure out the architecture of the right kind of niche publishing houses. Indeed, my goal is to create a small portfolio of houses, in order to see how much is similar, how much is different, what the user preferences are with writers, and readers, and reader-writers in different areas and styles of story-telling.