It wasn’t all that long ago that the Big Six publishing houses (Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster) and the like owned the book-printing industry. In an April 2011 article in “The Atlantic,” Peter Osnos points to the year 1984 as a turning-point in the publishing industry. He describes how the once-dominant booksellers that the US had in department stores were slayed by the chain stores, changing bookselling evermore. In that article, Peter also credits computers and increasing author advances as major game changers for the book publishing industry.
To Osnos’ point about computers, the modern cult of self-publishing certainly owns itself to computer technology. Prior to the digital age, one would have had to go all Anias Nin, purchasing and operating a printing press, to publish one’s own books; the investments of time and capital for doing so are neither attainable nor palatable for every given author. Self-publishers such as CreateSpace and Author Solutions (recently acquired by Pearson’s for a whopping $116 million) have offered a new horizon for authors – one can publish a book without an agent or a publisher. What’s more is that e-readers such as Kindles and Nooks have offered a new medium for consuming books, fostering an explosion of e-books, and encouraging some authors to publish e-books exclusively instead of hand-held print copies of their work, giving edge to digital books like never before.
The diversity of book publishing is at an all-time high, and Ingram Content Group has monopolized on that to become the largest distributor of physical and electronic media worldwide. Their mission statement is, “to help published content in any format reach more readers around the world.” Perhaps one day they will lay claim to being the hero who saved print books amidst the war with electronic books and readers. Pardon the romantic digression.
Lightning Source, a business unit within Ingram Content, offers electronic and hard copy publishing to independent publishers. As a print-on-demand book publishing service (think of the Espresso Book Machine), enabling independent publishers (Scribe Publishing is one of them!) to be more efficient and cost-effective than ever before. With printing operations in the US and Europe, publishers will see fast turnaround for books, whether printing a single copy or thousands of a given title. In offering a distribution network that includes Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, Gardners and Bertrams and Baker & Taylor, Lightning Source offers avenues to the shelves of major booksellers, contending with the sentiment of Random House’s former editorial director, Jason Epstein, who said, “… no author since Homer has ever found his own book in a bookstore.”