Nicholas Carr refers the great unbundling in his book The Big Switch. Carr claims that the internet is unbundling content from newspapers and other media forms and creating large value for commercially driven content that can be easily “aded” or linked to click-thru ads. What I’d like to examine is the effect this might have on publishers.
As I said in previous posts self-publishing direct to ereaders will change the type and volume of content available to readers. I have also argued that this will quickly lead to an “unbundling” of traditional publishing services and create an open market where these services are available piecemeal from freelancers. But what I would like to examine is how that market may develop and eventually lead to the establishment of epresses.
What I envision is a marketplace which will quickly develop into a combination of Craigslist and Linkedin. The market will probably function and develop in the following manner. In the early phase of this marketplace an author can place an ad for editing, marketing, SEO services or whatever services she deems necessary to prepare the manuscript for e-distribution. Freelancers will post their services, resumes, specializations, and samples for authors to peruse and choose from. This will be the earliest stage of unbundled publishing services.
As the freelancers complete projects they will earn positive and negative reviews, and a ranking system will develop. I imagine the ranking will cover quality, genre, completion rate, cost, and other factors of interest to authors. This ranking system will control the second phase of Epress development. The relationships and rankings will ultimately lead designers, SEO specialists, editors, and others to work together on many projects, and take the bulk of the work as long as they can retain high quality, and ratings from users.
The last and most developed phase of the unbundled service rankings, and relationships will coalesce into new companies. These epresses will specialize in ebook development, editing, and preparation. However, they will also have an infrastructure to carry the books to their physical distribution when deemed worthwhile. The companies will be made of geographically disparate freelancers with highly specialized skills. I can imagine that some freelancers in the early stages will help develop quite a few of these epresses and that the model will continue to be refined.
If the larger publishers do not yet understand the threat that this new, and as yet undeveloped model presents they will soon enough. Imagine a press that can develop and distribute books in any language, and any format, in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost that is taken by traditional publishers.
The large percentage of the book publishing market controlled by six publishers will quickly dissipate under the landslide of books that will come from a web press model.