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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Seth Godin predicts the future of publishing

It's not the kind of thing we normally talk about on the FL blog, but the spate of 4-day weekends in the UK has put me in holiday mood, so here's a real cut-through-the-crap interview with Seth Godin on how digital publishing is going to affect the future of books. Takeaways: "Publishers are obligated, unprepared and mostly uninterested in adapting to a digital future," and, "Adding video, audio and other extras to books, as in the CD-Rom era, is worse than a distraction; it's a dangerous cul-de-sac that will end in tears."

Naturally epublishing interests us at Fabled Lands LLP because digital platforms are clearly a better medium than print where gamebooks are concerned. But, quite apart from the niche area of gamebooks, in the coming decade we're going to see high street bookstore chains disappear, the major publishers shrinking if not going out of business altogether, and a Burgess Shale explosion of innovation in book publishing that will create some marvels and not a few unhappy mistakes.

There's a skim overview of ideas about epublishing on CNN here, but listen to the Seth Godin interview because that's the real eye-opener. Interesting times ahead.


  1. I'm gonna bookmark this and listen to it later after I have some more coffee.

    I don't suppose there's a transcript somewhere? As in a word-to-word transcript instead of a high-level overview?

    Also, that article on CNN news is so funny, because every other word is cyber-something. Whatever happened to that as a prefix?

  2. You could run it through dictation software.

    Yeah, the CNN thing is pretty superficial. But Godin's thoughts are right on the money.

  3. I think the whole "E-Book" thing is a flash in the pan. Nothing will ever replace proper books.

  4. @anon
    Why do people keep saying that? Surely there's room for both. Some books work better as objects, beautiful special gifts, but ebooks have all sorts of benefits.
    POD has to improve. Distribution is different now which makes this a special time for smaller publishers and writers. Bring on the future I say. May we have books in all formats from all manner of sources (not to mention built in dice rolling!)

  5. You're right, Billiam. And Mr Godin wasn't talking just about ebooks, Anon; the future will offer more choice, that's all. You can still buy vinyl albums if you like; digital hasn't killed that and it won't destroy printed books either.

  6. We heard that before with the FL reprints.

  7. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for sharing, very interesting indeed.

    On that topic, I was impressed for instance by the success (story) of Amanda Hocking using the KindleStore. There is a lesson here for the traditionalist reader that I am :)


  8. Hi Steve, Ms Hocking's story is impressive but there are of course many thousands of Kindle authors who you never hear of. There will be lots more books published in the coming decade (maybe more than have been published in all of history to this day) which will make it very hard to find good work. I don't have much faith in the wisdom of crowds - that's what made The Da Vinci Code a bestseller. So we will have an even greater need for gatekeepers and trusted critics. I'm sure these will emerge.

  9. I agree with you, Dave. On her blog, Ms Hocking highlights the fact that her success is due to book bloggers. These "trusted critics" will definitely become more influencial in the near future.

    Author Umberto Eco (the name of the rose) shared his views about traditional versus digital publication in an article published in a swiss magazine in October 2009. Apologies, it's in french but if anyone is interested, it's a fun read:


  10. Excellent interview, Steve; thanks for pointing it out. I especially like the emphasis on food :) and btw if anyone finds it a struggle to read, just enter the URL in Google and you get the translate option.

  11. For an alternate view, check this out- Gaetano

    Robert Darnton is University Librarian at Harvard. He wrote recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education about what he considers to be the following 5 myths.

    1) "The book is dead."
    2) "We have entered the Information Age."
    3) "All information is now available online."
    4) "Libraries are obsolete."
    5) "The future is digital."

  12. And this rejoinder: