7 Nov 2009
What is a book? It's a means of conveying ideas, of connecting a writer with a reader. Everything else is surplus.
All of the activity and infrastructure that we associate with publishing - agents, publishers, distributors, retailers, book tours, marketing - none of this has anything to do with the book: it is all mere business.
When disparaging self-publishing, old-media types frequently compare it unfavourably with the traditional book world. They point out the impossibility of getting bookstore distribution. Or they boast of the size of their marketing departments, against which you can't possibly compete.
In other words, they entirely miss the point of what books are about.
Certainly, an individual writer can't possibly compete on level terms with established publishers. Why would they want to try? The whole point of self-publishing is to cut out all that superfluous infrastructure (and the enormous costs and waste that go with it). It's about viewing the publishing process from a writer's perspective, not a business perspective. We're about writing and communicating, not profit and loss: we care about words, not balance sheets.
Self-publishing is a more direct connection between writer and reader.
For the time being, self-publishers still need intermediaries - such as POD services which, alas, remain expensive. But as e-books become more prevalent, even that requirement will diminish.
So perhaps it's time to reflect the true nature of self-publishing by renaming it: direct piublishing?