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The Publishing Industry: look out for small publishers!

Updated on July 13, 2011

What this Article is About

This brief article will discuss some issues related to the impact of technological advances in the publishing industry, which change the way consumers interact with books. This article should benefit anyone who has an interest in the publishing industry.

Economic and Commercial Impacts

The biggest economic and commercial impact on the publishing industry is the way consumers interact with books. The advent of ebooks and Print on Demand (POD) books mean that consumers can buy books online rather than in their printed form from book stores. Generally, this way of purchasing books is cheaper for consumers as the saving the publisher makes on printing costs can be passed on.

A related technological advance is the introduction of ebook readers. These are electronic devices with a screen size of approximately 15cm, which can be used to view ebooks. Some of these devices, such as Kindle, can download ebooks directly from the internet, via a wireless internet service. This new technology is quickly taking off. Jeff Bezos, the CEO for Amazon, claimed in July 2010 that ‘the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format’ after only 33 months on the market (in Boog 2010).

Differences Between Small and Large Publishers

Intuitively, the difference between small and large publishers is similar to the difference between small and large retailers. The larger retailers have an advantage in that they are able to lower their costs due to supply and demand, as well as reaching broader audiences due to their variety of choice. The smaller retailers, on the other hand, have higher prices and tend to target niche markets, due to their small turnover and relatively scant variety. A similar story is true of the large and small publishers: the former appeal to larger audiences and can produce stock for a lower price, whereas the latter target niche markets for a slightly higher cost.

Factors that may impact Sel-employed/Freelance Editors

This unequal playing field between the small and large publishers is being closed, however, with the new innovations in electronic media. The founder of if:book Australia, Kate Eltham, claims that ‘the distribution and retail networks that have developed over the 20th century… are being broken down by some of these [digital] changes’ (in deliciouslyfictitious 2010). It is this dissolution of the ‘old paradigm’ that has the potential to impact self-employed/freelance editors the most. Self-employed/freelance editors must adapt to this ‘new paradigm’ in which the larger publishing companies do not necessarily have an unequal advantage.


The changing face of the publishing industry, especially the move to an electronic interface, forces editors to consider different ways to sell merchandise. This new market has provided opportunities for small publishers to be more competitive with their larger rivals. It also impacts how self-employed/freelance editors conduct their business. Potentially, this new medium opens up some further opportunities for the aforementioned.



Boog, Jason 2010, Jeff Bezos: “Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format”, URL:, viewed on 22 March 2011.


deliciouslyfictitious 2010, Big Publishers More Vulnerable Than Small in e-book World, URL:, viewed on 22 March 2011.


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