Ten Publishing Things That Will Never Be The Same

From Publishing Perspectives:

In Publishing’s Post-Pandemic Future

No longer will we print 200 copies of an academic monograph, ship 150 to warehouses around the world, then on to university libraries, and hope the remaining 50 will evaporate somehow over time. Should any library actually want a print copy for archival or other reasons it’s perfectly easy to produce one on a print-on-demand basis and that single copy will cost less in money and damage to the environment.

  • As it happens, the same technology and attitude will pervade the thinking of general as well as academic publishers when maintaining the availability of backlist titles.
  • This will of course lead to a complete revision and rethinking of reversion clauses.

Scientific publishers will abandon any semblance of print production including the age-old tradition of printed offprints of an author’s article.

  • Print in the new world is akin to the old French tradition of delivering the mail by postmen on stilts—charming but ridiculous.

And how about the absurdity of sending printed copies to media for review?

  • During the lockdown, newspaper mailrooms have been empty and it has been pointless to send printed books. It turns out that for the purposes of review and criticism, a PDF is perfectly adequate in all but heavily illustrated art, lifestyle, and children’s books.
  • Of course the reviewer will find it hard to sell the PDF on eBay as a way of supplementing the paltry reviewer’s fee but perhaps it’s about time that reviewers were paid properly for their important function.

. . . .

Can anyone imagine any learning environment without a significant digital dimension? From the library to the lecture theater or classroom, the buzzword in educational publishing for schools and colleges has been “blended learning”–essentially a teacher, a book, and some digital supplements.

  • This will be reversed and will become a digital course supplemented by a teacher and the very occasional printed textbook.
  • It will still be blended learning but as in any blend everything depends on the proportions of the ingredients. In education, these proportions will never be the same again.

. . . .

With more people working from home, how can our industry justify typical midtown offices? How can senior executives justify large offices for themselves and battery-hen cubicles for lower-level staffers?

  • Old-fashioned offices and structures will not survive to be replaced by more employee-friendly work spaces and work practices.
  • Adieu, 9-to-5 work schedules. I’m very glad I haven’t invested heavily in big-city commercial property, and I’m pretty certain that most publishers will be looking to reduce their rent bills by taking less space and renegotiating leases.

. . . .

No more sales conferences in exotic places.

  • No more teeming academic conferences.
  • No more all-company rallies.
  • No more flying around the world when a phone call would suffice.
  • Leaving parties will be sadly frequent but less grand.

And finally, of course, the parties.

  • No more book launches in lovely but pokey independent bookshops.
  • No more cheap white wine.
  • No more self-serving speeches by the publisher.
  • No more shushing in order to hear the author’s speech or reading.
  • No more air kisses and mwah mwah.
  • No more trying to persuade staffers to mingle.
  • No more sucking up to journalists in the hope of a one-line mention in a diary column.
  • No more bundling up the unsold books to return to the warehouse.
  • The post-COVID-19 launch parties will be digital. Many more people can and will attend. The wine and refreshments will be top-notch. The author can be heard and seen. The event can be recorded and shared universally.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

5 thoughts on “Ten Publishing Things That Will Never Be The Same”

  1. The “new reversion clauses to account for POD” issue is one that I’ve been pursuing for a quarter of a century, with varying degrees of success. Some publishers (including commercial ones) are willing to define “in print” as requiring generation of a certain, relatively small, level of royalties to the author (for example, “the Work shall be considered ‘out of print’ if, for two consecutive royalty reporting periods beginning not less than 36 months after the first publication date of the Work, the Work fails to generate at least $200US in royalty payments (or, if any advance remains unearned, credits against that unearned advance) from sales of printed editions excluding any sublicensed printed edition”). That makes things reasonably clear… and reasonably easy to amend if hyperinflation makes $200 every six months for a book an unreasonable figure.

    Some publishers have not. These have uniformly been publishers with large — even dominant — academic and scientific/technical/professional divisions. Draw your own conclusions there.

    The key point is that this has nothing whatsoever to do with COVID–19, and it’s not particularly new — it was clearly an issue by the mid-1990s. But then, publishers keep trying to impose work-for-hire clauses on works not eligible for that status, and it’s only been 42 years, five months, and nine days since that became the law (see 17 U.S.C. § 101, definition of “work made for hire,” and ponder if “book-length work of fiction” fits into any of the statutory categories…).

    • I think work made for hire clauses are one of the most frequently misused/improperly used provisions I see from small publishers.

  2. Can anyone imagine any learning environment without a significant digital dimension?

    I don’t have to imagine it. I have seen millions of well educated people who had absolutely no digital dimension in their learning environment. And they just went to schools, not learning environments.

    I see millions of others who had lots of digital in their learning environment and can’t read or add.

    I’m looking for some indicator that the digital dimension has had some concrete effect on learning. The trend in NEAP scores over the time before and during the use of digital in the learning environment is essentially flat.

    • I would echo that sentiment, partly as most “digital components” up until now are simply PDF versions of static textbooks, not true multi-media style interactions. Part of my day job has me frequently talking with skills trainers who are doing it for a private-sector living, not academic tenure, and some of what they can do with even basic digital stuff is outstanding. Imagine for example even if you were just to track online reading of a section by, I don’t know, a grade 5 geography class. As a teacher, you could see where students were spending more time than others, how they were doing on in-book quizzes to track understanding, seeing where they needed to supplement the learning based on how people did in REAL-TIME or even simply YESTERDAY. Yet most teachers are only given the resources to photocopy / scan texts and share them with students.

      However, one of the big areas right now are all the universities trying to figure out what to do in September when international students (ka-ching!) stay home (ruh roh) and students decide to take a gap year rather than shelling out the same tuition for a virtual experience. Many are saying digital for September but REALLY want to be back in play for face-to-face by January. And that is not just the sports departments.

      Academia will die on their hallowed grounds before they give them up for digital links.

      P.

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