THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS: From p-books to e-books

By Teresa de Andrés. September 6, 2012

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One of the multiple advantages of working in the publishing business –in addition to being surrounded by books all day long– is that it is impossible to get bored. Every morning you have to get out of bed dressed for the change, ready to get rid of old preconceived ideas and take new ideas yet to be conceived. With the hat and boots that conquered the Far West. That’s how all writers, agents, editors, designers, booksellers, librarians and researchers in the world should start their days.

The Publishing Business: From p-books to e-books by Kelvin Smith has been written for those who dream of pursuing a career in the publishing business but also for those who are up to their necks in it and want to review their knowledge and certainties. Reading through the 208 pages of this new title, edited this summer by AVA Academia, we can understand how the publishing industry works today and we can foresee how it could carry on in the future. It thoroughly analyses the whole process that surrounds a book: since when it is only a simple idea in a writer’s head until it is shamelessly subjected to the trial of reading. On the road, countless tasks follow one another: editorial processes, design, production, marketing, sales and distribution.

The Publishing Business is clearly didactic. Like every title published by AVA Academia, it focuses on teaching and it makes us reflect on the subject –in this case, the many sides that make up today's publishing industry. That is why the explanatory texts come with suggestions for exercises, activities, recommended readings and questions that encourage reflection and discussion. Because behind any book there are hundreds of decisions –more or less invisible– that a less trained eye can easily overlook: from the chosen paper to the typography used, not to mention legal or economic issues.

The topics dealt with in the different chapters are completed with several case studies like the acquisition of Random House by the media corporation Bertelsmann, the comparison between the giants Amazon and EBSCO or the analysis of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the most important in the industry. It also includes quotes that gather the opinions of many professionals, although maybe one could wish for the participation of a wider range of authors to give the title –already inspiring and comprehensive– some extra depth.

The ghost of the digital book haunts the pages of The Publishing Business. Because e-books are older than we tend to think. For example the famous digital library of the Project Gutenberg, which today has more than 38,000 free titles, started in 1971, while the first eReader was born in 1986 although it wasn’t until 2007 when it became a true mass phenomenon with Amazon’s Kindle. It is also important to highlight the fact that, as usual, technology moves faster that bureaucrats and policy-makers, against whom we still have to fight to prove that an e-book is a book.

The Publishing Business is a must-read book aimed for all of us who want –and will want– to keep the publishing business alive. Because it will not be for the lack of professionals willing to work and a readership willing to read, but for slow and outdated governments, that the publishing industry may have to say goodbye to a dazzling future.

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