The Digital Publishing Revolution Is in the Rearview Mirror
The way digital consumption evolved, then, with music and video, from optical disc ($10 to $15) to digital download ($1 to $10) to streaming video (1¢ per play), suggests that the present nice revenue streams from the sale of EPUB files via third-party retailers may not be much more than the temporary bump that record labels got 15 years ago as consumers changed consumption format from analog to digital.
We have little reason to believe that the $100 million a month in e-book sales we're seeing right now is proof that revenues from digital downloads will replace revenue from print. Instead, what we're likely to see can be projected from the twin effects of a production revolution of the sort we've seen in books, combined with the consumption revolution we saw in music—via an ongoing increase in the creation of content and in the number of publisher-like intermediaries. These often will be operating on a labor-of-love, mom-and-pop, kitchen-table basis (publishing itself, as well as eBay, Etsy, etc.) to help orchestrate this creativity and far broader productions of artist-fan relationships, as we saw in music. They will be focused on cultivating attention, which is scarce, not on making and distributing copies, which are infinitely bountiful. BB
Richard Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur. Founder of Cursor and publisher of Red Lemonade, he is now vice president of Content and Community for the LA-based cultural discovery start-up Small Demons. For most of the past decade, he ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press, for which he was awarded the Association of American Publishers' Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. Books he edited and published landed on best-seller lists from the Boston Globe to the Singapore Straits-Times and twice on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, among others. The last book he edited for Soft Skull, Lydia Millet's "Love in Infant Monkeys," was selected as a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Last year the Utne Reader named him one of "50 Visionaries Changing Your World," and Mashable.com picked him as the "#1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing."