Last Thursday I had the delight of meeting a man who is legendary in the Christian publishing world, Dan Rich. He started NavPress, which was the beginning of his publishing career and moved on to start Waterbrook (now Waterbrook-Multnomah, an imprint of Random House). Now he works here as the Publisher and he has some seriously awesome stories.
I find it fascinating that so many people in publishing didn’t have any intention of started that way. Mr. Rich (or Dan, I guess. It feels weird to call adults by their first names) got his degree in business. It made him an ideal candidate to launch NavPress, because he could handle all of the aspects needed. I have a terrible mind for finances and such, so I would be bad at a job like that.
One of the questions I always like to ask people in the publishing business is where they think publishing will be in the next five to ten years. I am inclined to believe that paper books will stick around for a while longer, but with more ereaders out, more people are believing that we’ll be digital in a short amount of time. Nobody at DCC believes that. They all think that paper will stick around and be a primary venue for reading. Imagine that! It was interesting to hear the direction that DCC will be going toward when it comes to digital books.
Do you ever read a book and think, “Gosh, I only really liked that one part.” Well Dan thinks that within a few years, they’ll be able to offer certain chapters of books that offer nuggets of wisdom/truth. I had never heard of this idea or thought about it, so I was excited to hear it.
Most of the big ideas on the future of publishing I’ve had I can directly attribute to Paul Santhouse. Books-on-demand could be an interesting direction. For those of you that don’t know: Print-on-demand is a service that several printers offer, but isn’t used by publishing companies, because the cost of printing one book at a time is too much. The more books you print, the less it costs. However, let’s say that a publisher orders 15,000 copies of a book, and it only sells 2,000 (which would totally suck for the author). The bookstores that bought that book can send them back. And then the publisher is stuck with 13,000 copies of a book that won’t sell. Print-on-demand is much, much easier and it has the potential to be more cost effective.
A lot of authors are already jumping on the bandwagon and offering some of their books in that format (ebooks and print-on-demand). Stephen King tried it before it’s time (but seriously, give the guy credit, he was WAY ahead of the curve). Jerry B. Jenkins has at least one book, that I know of, available in a print-on-demand format. And Seth Godin publicly and defiantly abandoned traditional trade publishing to embrace Amazon and their DYI publishing (CreateSpace). CreateSpace is a self-publishing venue through which your book can be published online and offered to those who would prefer a print copy. If you order a print copy through Amazon (which is the only way you could get one) then they print it right then and there and send it to you. Smart right? Take it one step…well, I guess backwards, because I would hate for book stores to become obsolete.
Jason Epstein (of whom most of you haven’t heard) wrote Book Business and showed a vision of the future. Given that he was an editor for the likes of Norman Mailer, I tried to picture his vision. And then found out I didn’t have to. He spoke of the Espresso Book Machine. The EBM has the ability to print books right then there and will fit in any book store. For instance, if, at Barnes and Noble, they had run out of Pride and Prejudice (HIGHLY unlikely), then they could just go print one for you in the back. Crazy right? And while this is a reality, I don’t know of any places that have them.
So I started this post with Dan Rich and ended with Espresso. Sorry for my sporadic train of thought, or if I repeated myself (have I written a post on this before? I’ll have to check). I hope you enjoyed the passion of publishing as displayed through my severe inability to stay on task.