From Publishing Perspectives:
WYSIATI, an acronym borrowed from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, means that “what you see is is all there is.” It’s something akin to a baby’s missing sense of object permanence: if it’s not in front of you, it doesn’t exist. This phenomenon would account for why [Judith] Appelbaum, a keen and practical observer of the publishing business, believes that the biggest change in the industry is something that has gone largely unnoticed.
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The introduction of important new digital formats notwithstanding, Appelbaum firmly believes that the most momentous change taking place right now in publishing is among small, independent, and self-publishers. “The enormous growth in small publishers and self-publishers began decades ago and has escalated enormously with digital opportunities.” Despite the existence of this growth, Appelbaum is convinced it is mostly undetected by the industry as a whole. “Its impact is almost as invisible as it used to be,” she says.
Appelbaum explains why this surge in indie publishing is mostly unnoticed. “Circling back to BISG, one goal from the beginning was to get some reliable numbers about what was happening. That’s a brave goal and it’s still a goal, but those figures still do not include enormous amounts of activity by small and self-publishers. They’re not there because a lot of very profitable smaller publishers sell either partly or exclusively outside the trade and nobody counts those sales. Nobody can count them. The people who might count them don’t care enough to count them because it’s not their main business.”
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Appelbaum explains that many self-published authors, whose sales may be significant, don’t report to anyone who’s compiling industry statistics. In addition, she says, many sales by established publishers into the gift market and other non-trade outlets go unreported. “BookScan figures are the best we have but it’s missing a whole lot. And Amazon never tells anybody anything and there’s a lot going on there.”
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As to what happens next, Appelbaum speculates: “What I think is that this segment is going to continue to grow, and I suspect that that visible segment is going to continue to be unable to see it and is going to wonder why what they see as their whole industry is flat.” With digital production and distribution making books “easier to get,” Appelbaum anticipates a continuing publishing surge, but one that will remain under the radar.
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As for the retail supply chain, Appelbaum is watching that as well. “I’m interested to see, and probably everybody is, how Amazon’s, shall we say, dominance is going to develop. But I wouldn’t hazard a guess except that I don’t think it’s going to kill the industry. I remember very well when B&N was evil incarnate, deciding which books got published and deciding on the covers, and if they didn’t want a book it was dead, dead, dead. That didn’t last forever!
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Tina for the tip.