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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Alternative Publishing: a radical rival

▲ Rainy Weather with a 'Rival' passing in Radically Opposite direction 
(Photo by Author)   

© Nirupam Banerjee, INDIA

There is still a lot of Articles/Posts/etc — in the Internet — still trying to prove that the Traditional Publishing is still the superior. Even pessimistic Posts about the future of Traditional Publishing, can carry an implicit message of declaring it as the only desirable option that is 'unfortunately' just fading away. Some others advocate Hybrid Publishing (or at least mention the in-between concept) in such a manner that as if: Traditional Publishing is after all the better choice, but just because it's now going in rough weather, it has to be added-on with Self-publishing. 

Even for a single book project, this concept is forwarded. By proposing to self-publish first, and after the possible hit, then to traditionally publish the same! For further success! If one doesn't badly need such an one-off money, this idea too indirectly indicates a more belief in the traditional publishing.

Now a fresh row of concepts has joined the debate, to keep the traditional belief system alive. Such Posts either directly go for the propaganda, or indirectly bring the same. For examples, the following ideas are floating in the Web recently:

  • Writers do NOT like works other than pure writing. So self-publishing is too much. It can ruin their health
  • Writers want more HELP than Control 
  • Publishers can better fight against Online Piracy (through Takedown etc)
  • Publishers ensure the Plagiarism/Spam/etc-free 'real' Books. Which the Self-publishing industry doesn't
  • Self-publishing is Arbitrary (containing jewels as well as craps) but Traditional publishing is PRAGMATIC — even if not great, a book shall be at least of a solid standard, especially in this Information Era 
  • Reviews & Star ratings for the Indies are MOSTLY fake
  • Publishers, if adapting to the Internet properly, can regain back their old status — and this time even more fully. 

In the wake of these NEW advertisements for the Traditional Publishing, I first propose a NEW term for the greater Self-publishing world: The ALTERNATIVE PUBLISHING. This term, I opine, has an implicit message of pointing to the Traditional Publishing's failure. As if: because of exactly this, the concept of Alternative is being born! (Otherwise we could carry on with the Hybrid-publishing or Complementary publishing or similar other concepts.) 

Alternative Publishing is a form of self-publishing (greater self-publishing) that does not mix & match — ON PRINCIPLE — with traditional publishing. It is a total rival. It believes that it is totally sufficient on its own! In every aspects!

Alternative Publishing questions the fundamental role of the Traditional Publishers. The very essence of their profession. Technology enhancing both, where else the difference filters out? — Is it in their ability to SPONSOR or in the capacity to EDIT or something else, wherein they stand out beyond the Technology? 
Or is it their SHARING action (promotion) or LIKING activity (endorsement) that matters ultimately?

If a basic answer is ever found out, then the Alternative Publishing shall try to eliminate that weakness (on the part of the self-publishing) permanently. Rather than just coping with the symptoms of the debate e.g. by adding on traditional techniques &/or traditional publishers later in the project.

It is of paramount importance to eliminate the original cause of the still ongoing Traditional- vs Self-publishing debate. Of course, simply by looking at this single sentence, the traditional publishing fans may like to believe that once the cause has been eliminated, the self-publishing will be thrown away by the public for ever. But latest trend has already made many in the opposite camp believe that once a few more milestones are reached, in this ever changing world, it's rather the traditional publishing which will just evaporate for ever.     

A few years ago, this debate looked quite exciting! "Food for thought!", as some people would have said. But now with even court cases taking place (in the USA) between the Publisher(s) & Amazon, things are getting increasingly bitter. Amazon aims Wholesale model while one of the top Publishers dreams Agency model. In supplying the Ebooks to Consumers.

Amazon also dealing with Self-publishing writers i.e. the Indies, is clearly 'not placed' in the exclusive Traditional Publishing camp. And the tussle between Amazon & the Publisher(s) is — in the very essence — the tussle between Indie Publishing & the Traditional. But the difference of late is that, the 'debate' no longer remains ABSTRACT in the realm of the coffee table & blog level discussions, but is converted into a CONCRETE fight for even the 'Law & Order' situation!

Maybe legislation needs to change. Maybe not. But in either case, the question is that: Is the World moving to a New Order? Someone once wrote in the Internet that, to fight against Amazon is to fight against the Internet (which would be unwise). Is Internet born to favour the Alternative Publishing? If that be so, what will happen to the Publishers as the Internet's age increases?  

Since the tussle has reached the Court levels, it in turn leads to more Articles & Blog Posts on essentially the same debate again! Thus a new wave of discussion heats up in the web. And this may be too much this time! So it is extremely important that we now get out of this old debate at the earliest!  

Now let us explore the bullet-pointed ideas here: if anything can be neutralized/countered or at least put into new research:

  • With Technologies — the Internet etc — progressing significantly further, the OTHER workloads of the Indies (apart from the 'pure writing') could be increasingly easier, faster & more enjoyable
  • What HELP? — Editing? (Freelancers available!) — Promotion? (In fact too much promotion may not be required as proper audience can be identified as the Web 2.0 advances further!) — Endorsement? (Readers & Forums can better do this by simply clicking the 'like' button in the Social media if the Publisher's logo in the Book Cover were so much of a Social question really!) — Sponsoring? [This may be however a factor to research, especially if the Writers want to self-publish outside the websites like Amazon. Even there, 'crowdfunding' could be an idea to explore!]
  • Not necessarily! The Pirates are more advanced in Technology than the most Publishers (except, for example, a Technical Publisher on the topic of DRM & Internet Piracy itself).   
  • If X self-publishes a Plagiarized ebook & Y self-publishes a Spam ebook, those events may cast a shadow on the Retailer involved — but not necessarily on the Self-publishing Writer Z. [Of course if such X & Y arise in large numbers, then the person Z suffers a statistical impact of suspicion. But that's an area to research further in the E-book Industry. For example, as more start-ups arise, pushing the Internet into another level, this problem could be solved in the future.]  
  • This is another area for research: How to reduce the 'Crap %' in Self-publishing & increase the 'Jewel %' here to a statistically significant level (from the viewpoint of Consumers' perception).
  • This area may not matter much, if the fundamental things remain strong e.g. the Book's quality runs solid & the problems discussed above get resolved in the future. 
  • This can happen IF the Alternative Publishing's own adaption to the Internet doesn't advance further into the future. Through research & development & even innovation.

We should not need to be in the denial mode: "The Self-publishing or Alternative Publishing has already solved it all." Instead let us work out even more innovatively, as the prospects it already presents are already challenging the Traditional Publishing.

Amazon.com may be just a tip of the iceberg. Even if Amazon loses in the Ebook industry, many more miracles could come in the future. Already Amazon, being a Retailer, had risen miraculously in the Ebook world. It had at least paved the way for a good Research & Development for the Self-e-publishing of the Books. 

But the new start-ups & future miracles could be even more!♦

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