So it’s clear that nobody’s very keen on the idea of developing a publishing business now. Rather the opposite: the pessimism suggests it would be a good time to exit. Why?
1. The economy’s frail.
2. The market that remained in good health – academic publishing (students still need resources; some students enrol because of poor employment propsects; and universities have been spending grants already in place) – is going to be hit by a wave of cuts, at least here in the UK.
3. The retail chains are suffering from competition from the supermarkets and Amazon. Borders UK has already gone to the wall.
4. Publishing now requires technological expertise. Publishers’ workforces are challenged: publishing previously offered a haven for people without scientific or technological qualifications.
5. Publishing strategy is becoming a more complex business. It’s no longer just, “Shall we do it in hardback first and then paper?” There’s digital too – and different kinds of digital. So many formats, so many platforms.
6. And people keep moving the goalposts. The technology keeps changing. Some of the platforms you try to get your head around disappear even before they make it to market.
7. It’s too early to say who, if anyone, has made the right decisions – so none of us know whom to imitate.
8. It’s easier for people to self-publish. The world may decide that publishers don’t add enough value to justify their existence.
9. People are coming – or have come – to expect digital information and entertainment to be free.
10. If we protect digital texts with digital rights management, our products will put off our legitimate customers. If we don’t, it will all get copied and distributed illegally and our revenues will disappear.
Woe, woe, and thrice woe.