Beyond Publishers DE
What we often miss, when speaking about the “Book Business”
A research project by Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting 2023
When researching the Global 50 Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2022, I realized that this survey on the biggest actors in the international publishing business has major blind spots. Their scope and relevance is expanding. In 2022, Amazon’s payout from Kindle Unlimited to small presses and authors alone added up to half a billion US dollars.
Over the past decade, the traditional value chain of authors or agents > publishers (as gatekeepers) > distributors > bookshops > consumers and readers has been replaced partly by an increasing variety of different models.
It began with self-publishing services like Amazon’s Kindle Direct, with a focus on just a few niche genres like romance or fantasy. Strongly performing bestseller authors got more entrepreneurial, using publishers and distributors just as providers of services. Authors’ writing hubs evolved into cross-media hubs, rebranded as “studios” for generating industrialized serialized storytelling. Publishing corporations figured out how to tap into such environments for discovering and fostering new creative talent. Today’s ebook and audiobook platforms have by and large abandoned selling books altogether, and instead provide consumers with services for accessing a huge library.
From a bird’s-eye view, the business of books operates less and less as a linear “value chain”. It resembles more an open sea, with a few major continents, plus lots and lots of islands and archipelagos of various sizes and shapes.
“Beyond Publishers” is a research effort to
- Map business actors and describe creation and exploitation models, and
- Develop reasonable estimates of their respective scale and scope.
Questions to be researched in “Beyond Publishers” include:
- What do we often miss when discussing the „Book Business“?
- How do platforms like Spotify, Webtoons or Tonies compare to a bookshop?
- Why, and how, a digital social media like Tiktok inspires the selling of print?
- How are publishing processes changed with these various new models?
- How can I measure the scope of such „publishing“ in a „Global Publishing Ranking“?
- How can we include „self publishing“, „subscription“ or „streaming“ in book statistics?
- How do we define what is a „book“ today? And why does it matter?