Amberizing glasses

Last week, Don Linn posted “What Men (and Women) Talk About When They Talk About Publishing”, a two-part assessment of the current state of publishing.

The first post tackled things that Linn feels are commonly discussed but ultimately tangential to the health of most publishers: devices, enhanced eBooks, transmedia and Amazon (as a villain, rather than just a reality), among others.

The second post offers Linn’s perspective on the things that do matter, including discovery, the use of metadata, workflow and content management, supply chain issues, rights and channel optimization.

Linn’s posts reminded me how much work remains to be done to “save publishing”.

Perhaps the long history that has given us time to perfect one model also makes it hard to adapt to a new one. An extended supply chain doesn’t help.

Authors, agents, editors, publishers, printers, distributors, retailers, libraries and (now) technology vendors all participate. A business model that motivates one does not necessarily motivate all.

When changes occur, it’s natural to circle the wagons locally to manage the impact on our part of the supply chain. We tend to analyze our problems in silos, rather than employ the systems thinking best addressed in Peter Senge’s work.

Like it or not, optimizing one part of a supply chain almost always guarantees a suboptimal result overall. As Linn points out in his second post, publishers that have marginalized libraries and booksellers do so at their peril.

It’s natural to tackle today’s problems using the models that worked yesterday. From time to time, we all wear amberizing glasses, pining for things to work as they did before.

Unfortunately, clinging to the past, or hoping that devices and formats will save us, only accelerates the dizzy spiral of goodbye. Linn’s second post is critical: in a digital world, how publishers work is how they compete.

Publishing need not be a zero-sum game. There is a world of possibility for those willing to embrace the new rules, broadly.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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