Publisher or Platform

An author/illustrator writes for their audience.

The audience supports an author/illustrator when they ‘buy’ their work, either in monetary terms or in terms of attention.

So what, then, is the role of a publisher? To connect the author/illustrator with an audience? To polish their work for an audience?

What if technology disrupts this? What if a platform could replace a publisher? What if a platform connected content creators to their audience? What if the platform allowed niche content to find a market and allowed the market to fill the niches? What if it permitted consumer to consumer interactions and permeability between consumers and content creators and above all, innovation and imagination because of small overheads and deep community support?

To quote Seth Godin:

Encyclopedia salesmen hate Wikipedia,
And newspapers hate Craigslist,
And music labels hate Napster,
And used bookstores hate Amazon,
And so do independent bookstores.

And courier services hate fax machines
And monks hate Gutenberg.

Apparently, technology doesn’t care who you hate.

What’s a publisher to do? What’s an author to do? What’s an illustrator to do?

Picture via kokjebalder



  1. Mala April 8, 2008

    The world is large enough for small bookstores and Amazon.com to thrive, and there is enough room under the sun for laid-back publishers, conventional readers, in-a-hurry-to-to-innovate techies, and online browsers.

  2. Gautam April 8, 2008

    You do make a fair point but I’m wondering whether technology is a ‘threat’ to publishers of the dead-tree variety, conventional or otherwise.

  3. Mala April 8, 2008

    As long as there are people who want to curl up with a good book, or swat flies while lazing on the beach with a tall drink, the dead tree variety of books and newspapers are going to be needed. Publishers just need to get smart and use technology to reach out to more buyers.

  4. Gautam April 8, 2008

    I don’t doubt that the dead-tree variety of the books isn’t going away. It’s far too convenient a medium.

    My larger question is whether you need a publisher to produce that book.

  5. Purvi April 8, 2008

    Ya i guess to meet economies of scale one would need a publisher, and also if the end user wants the book in a certain format where quality, form, price etc are maintained……and defintely so for children
    But the most exciting part of a platform is that it creates new opportunities for networking, feedback et al.

  6. Gautam April 8, 2008

    @ Purvi:

    Economies of scale are required to print at low (er) price points. What if the price point was zero because the author wrote for the love of writing. Or what of the price the author set was USD 1 because there is no intermediary overheads? And what if a company such as Lulu will print it for you, in a form and at quality, for an additional USD 5? And what if that’s far cheaper than any publisher can do it?

  7. Manisha April 9, 2008

    Sure, more power to such authors and Lulu. If such is the future of all
    exchange of ideas and knowledge and pleasure dissemination (sms has done
    away with the snobbish need for grammar and spelling or spell check can
    plug the gap), then it is a new reality. After all, what are books if not a
    need for communication? Until now, the publisher had an intermediary’s role to
    take the author’s work to a wider audience. If the net can do it more
    efficiently then let the author find her space without the gatekeeping
    busibodiness of the publisher.


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