BTB #135: A Book Report From Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson“Publishing as we know it will die if changes are not made,” observes Sara Nelson, one of the industry’s leading pundits. Now with O, The Oprah Magazine, as its books director, Nelson is a former editor-in-chief at Publishers Weekly.

Unlike many, though, she doesn’t blame the digital revolution. “I don’t even think that Google, per se, is the culprit. It’s not that simple. I think that publishers need to think about the business model in which they operate… – in other words, advances against royalties.”

2 Responses to “BTB #135: A Book Report From Sara Nelson”

  1. msbpodcast November 30, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Sara Nelson is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    When people ask her “What’s coming down the road” and she answers “Write the book you want to write” she is really not answering their question at all.

    They are looking for any information they can find about what might be a new way for the authors to express themselves and how they might fit into the new mold.

    This has nothing to do with their “business model.” It has to do with their “creative urge.”

    This woman is being an unintentional tool of the status quo and a buzz kill by having nothing to offer except the same ol’ same ol’.

    Publishing as we know it will not even get so much as a head cold.

    Authors will still need publishers to do the things that publishers have been doing for authors since before the invention of the printing press.

    But being married to the environmental nightmare called a printing press is a road to nowhere.

    The reproduction and dissemination technology is going from an expensive 1:N broadcast model into an N:M network model.

    As A. J. Liebling said “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. Now everybody own one.

    The N:M model is much, much less expensive.

    The value added part used to be provided by the publishers but used to be priced through their control of the printing press.

    In effect, they devalued their own labors and counted on the fact that they controlled access to the 1:N cloaca of the reproduction medium to charge enough to make publishing profitable.

    That worked as long as a 1:N “Model of Scarcity” was in operation

    Once the cold war’s digital revolution (which permitted anything to be digitized,) was married with the cold war networking revolution (which permitted the perfect transmission of the digital objects over the internet and lately the world wide web,) the emergence of an N:M “Model of Plenty” started.

    Books are the least, and the last to be, affected by this digital revolution because they aren’t ad supported.

    The digital revolution has affected content publisher’s business models and is decimating media because it started first with advertisers. (Perfect may be the enemy of good enough but better is the enemy of the status quo.)

    Magazines are dying.

    Newspapers are dying.

    Television is dying.

    They are all dying in direct proportion to the degree to which they are ad supported.

    Since movies and book publishing are generally not ad supported, they have a chance to survive the transition to an ad-free, (earned instead of paid-for,) business model.

    I could go on…


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    […] A Book Report From Sara Nelson, Books Director, O, The Oprah MagazinePodcast and transcript of Sara Nelson’s interview from the PubWest conference. […]

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