Technological developments are regularly presenting a raft of new challenges and choices. Through it all, publishers are continually being asked to demonstrate their utility. With self-publishing a click away, authors ask publishers, "Do we still need you?" If printing and distribution can now be accomplished at a much-reduced cost and degree of complexity, must publishers redefine their raison d'être? Are publishers having an identity crisis?
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has launched Wharton Digital Press, a global, all-digital publishing initiative that will publish books electronically, including as e-books, enhanced e-books, mobile apps and print books available through print-on-demand. The new press will operate in collaboration with Knowledge@Wharton, the school's online journal of research and business analysis, which reaches 1.7 million subscribers in 189 countries in five languages.
When it comes to author negotiations, Florrie Kichler has it relatively easy. “As a publisher, I do the reissues of classic children’s book series,” Kichler says. “Most authors are dead.” Of course, even with writers who have shuffled off this mortal coil, there are still issues of rights and payments, and negotiations with families or estates. As the president of Indianapolis-based Patria Press and president of the PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, Kichler has an excellent vantage point on the challenges faced by publishers when negotiating contracts, whether with those living or dead. “I don’t offer advances, but I do offer a