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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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7

Whither the Professional Book Publisher in an Era of Distribution on Demand

Laura J. Miller

ABSTRACT

This chapter examines changing organizational, economic, and cultural practices of book production by analyzing the breakdown of several once firm distinctions in the book industry: between production and distribution; between professional publishing and self-publishing; and between amateur and commercial authorship. The development of online storefronts that sell physical books, electronic devices that make it possible to read digital books, and a focus on content as intellectual property that can be detached from form have made it easier than in the past to bypass professional publishers and their traditional roles as gatekeepers, editors, and coordinators of the book production process. The result has been a huge increase in self-publishing, a phenomenon facilitated by for-profit companies that provide a mechanism for distributing these books. The argument is made that the growth of self-publishing reinforces a shift in power relations within the book industry, from publishers to distributors, and helps to make authorship into a recreational choice that can be purchased.

Prophesying the end of the book, a perennial pastime ever since the advent of television, has intensified in recent years. For decades, observers had warned that young people do not choose to read, being too distracted by other, primarily electronic, diversions that eat into what little unscheduled time they ...

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