Sunday, July 31, 2011

Are the historical models that might help modern authors and publishers?

As book stores go out of business and the book publishing industry faces new uncertainties, the question of how authors can support their work comes to the fore. Some are experimenting with disintermediation, self publishing (often using print on demand) and/or publishing digital versions online. Amazon will list such books for sale, providing a marketing intermediate, even if the author chooses to dispense with a publishing house with its editorial and other staff.

In the past, authors sometimes financed their works by subscriptions, as Audubon financed his great Birds of America by having people subscribe to monthly issues of prints. I recall too that authors of fiction in the 19th century would support their work by serializing the chapters of their books in periodicals, publishing hardback editions when the book was completed.

I have ordered a book in advance of its publication on Amazon, which allowed me to be assured that I would be among the first to obtain a copy. The process used by Amazon also assures a low price, pricing the book not at the nominal price when the order is placed but at the lowest price from that time until publication.

Selling books online might allow subscriptions of different kinds. Thus one might subscribe to digital editions of chapters on a monthly basis, or to a digital edition of the whole book, to a paper back, to a hard cover edition, to a copy of the hard cover signed by the author, or even to a more elaborate arrangement.

Someone should set up a business making these options available to authors!

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