The Disruption in Publishing is Far from Over

June 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

The book publishing world has been pummeled by one external disruptive force or another for the past 15 years. This time frame roughly corresponds with the growth of the internet in all of our lives. Whether it be online retailing, eBooks, globalization, consumer attention span, or discoverability, publishers have been in “react”mode for almost as long as most of us can remember.

In a recent blog post, Thad McIIroy presented some very interesting data about the employment decline in the sector over the past ten years being as high as 25%. Couple that with data that shows books sales as relatively flat and average book prices (unadjusted for inflation) having very little change over the past eight years, and it’s no wonder we are reacting! We are simply trying to survive!

I attend lots of book publishing events and one of the themes I notice this year is a bit of a “sigh of relief”. Publishers, in general, appear to believe that the majority of the disruptive forces are now at bay, and under control. They believe that they can get back to business as usual.

I’m worried about this attitude, because there is no such thing as “usual”. Smarter publishers recognize that while there might be a lull in disruption, it won’t last long. We don’t know what we don’t know yet, but we know this much: the world is on an innovative hot streak, and some not-yet-known innovation will likely put us back on our heels in a heartbeat – and probably sooner rather than later.

We all need to take the time afforded to us now during this lull period to disrupt ourselves; to set our own directions; make our own innovations. Essentially it’s time to move from reactive management to proactive management.

People in book publishing are among the most creative on the planet. It’s time for us to reinvent our own future, before someone reinvents it for (and/or takes it away from) us.

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