Can Book Publishing Retain Its Most Precious Asset?
\"The Internet changes the entire dynamics of publishing. When Stephen King\'s words can be packaged into a PDF file and downloaded by anyone with a computer in a few minutes, one must begin to question what his publisher, Simon & Schuster, is doing to earn its share of the income pie.\"
There are signs that at least a few publishers are seeing the threat posed to their traditional ways by the Internet. Look at sites from Simon & Schuster and Little, Brown and Co., for example, and you\'ll see signs of web savviness. Simon & Schuster makes a big pitch for e-books, even if the options for accessing them aren\'t entirely clear. Little, Brown promotes live chats with authors and free excerpts of popular books. Others, like Harper-Collins and John Wiley & Sons, seem to be stuck in neutral, focusing entirely on describing their latest printed bound volumes.
I don\'t envy the challenge facing publishers. They need to do something much more difficult than shedding their tweedy ways — they need to demonstrate their value in the knowledge-distribution food chain. And they need to do that in the face of a daunting reality: The Internet opens up for authors, the publishers\' main asset, the heady possibility of freedom — freedom to communicate directly with readers around the world, freedom to publish their works quickly, and freedom at long last to earn a much larger share of each publishing dollar.
It\'s heady stuff. Once people catch the scent of freedom in the air, it\'s hard to get them to listen to reason.