Literature Is Not the Same Thing as Publishing by Chris FischbachThe publisher of Coffee House Press—a small, independent publisher based in Minneapolis—writes an essay at VQR on the evolution of their goals:
At Coffee House, we interrogated all our assumptions about the industry, how we do business, how we reach our goals. The largest assumption? That we publish books. Everything changed when we decided no, publishing books is not our goal; it’s a tactic we use to achieve our actual goal, which is to connect writers and readers.
Connecting writers and readers over the course of the decades, and continuing to do that, means delivering content however and wherever the reader or writer wants. But what is a publisher if you take books out of the equation? What’s the next step?
What does innovation look like in the context of literary publishing? Hint: It’s not e-books.
Fischbach offers specific examples of “not publishing books” that achieve the press’s mission. He also offers other excellent examples in the literary community, such as Tin House and Two Dollar Radio.
Publishers could break the back of the Amazon monopsony today were they to start selling all of their books without DRM. Can’t find the book you want on Amazon? How about you simply visit the publisher’s site and buy it there. Or, as is more likely, visit the site of your favorite author.
Ah, but that’s the rub. The publishers need Amazon because they need the Kindle’s DRM, because they know without that artificial friction their contribution to a book’s fixed costs would become untenable.
Thompson goes on to say that the economics of publishers are wholly incompatible with the Internet, and proposes an unconventional way for them to thrive in the future.