hospice for publishers 08.19.2010, 2:49 PM
posted by bob stein
One of my best friends' parents both became very ill this year. Her mother, 87, elected to have a feeding tube inserted permanently. She is confined to her bed, alone much of the time, and in constant pain, waiting for the inevitable end, which thanks to the feeding tube may be many miserable months ahead. Her father, 90, elected to enter a hospice facility where he spent his last three weeks eating yogurt, sipping the occasional last whiskey, and having long wonderful visits with his three children, their spouses and his beloved grown grandchildren. By all accounts it was a very good death.
Thinking about my friend's parents makes we wonder why their couldn't be a "hospice" option for publishers, many of whom -- my low-end guess is at least 50% -- won't survive the transition from print to networked screens. If a publisher doesn't have the requisite vision, desire and resources to embrace digital, what's wrong with saying, "Gee, it's been a great 25, 50, 100-year run. Instead of beating our heads against a wall and dying an ugly death, why don't we go out in style." Once this difficult decision is arrived at, it would be a matter of selling the assets that can be sold, providing staff with generous severance and really helping them to find new jobs, and then at the very end giving some wonderful parties, celebrating the end of an era. A death with integrity and dignity intact.
Please understand that I make this suggestion with huge love and respect for publishers. At their best they have played a crucial role in the complex discourse that moves society forward. Like a beloved parent, there's no reason why they should suffer more than necessary at the end of a full and productive life.
Posted by bob stein on August 19, 2010 2:49 PM
mquander on August 19, 2010 3:59 PM:
I have a difficult time imagining a publishing executive calling a company meeting to say "We don't have the requisite vision, desire and resources to embrace digital. Since our company is doomed, why don't we go out in style." I don't think people who would say things like that make it very far up the corporate ladder.
Christian Wach on August 20, 2010 6:55 AM:
Agreed, publishers first, military next...
"Gee, it's been a good few millennia run, but now that we know we all live together on a small blue planet, well, what's the point? We're obsolete. Let's go out with a bang."
Personanondatta on August 20, 2010 8:10 AM:
Agree with the first two comments and I'd add that in that environment there's probably no money for parties. What they should do is put all the titles into the Google publishing program and be done with it. Maybe set up the revenue stream as a type of pension plan.
Gary Frost on August 23, 2010 6:14 PM:
Print is still lingering. The only sign of exclusive migration to the screen is a small niche of addictive romance. All other screen books have print equivalents while about 50% of new publications are exclusive to print.
The poor publishers are greatly tried by this. Now they must sell each of their products, each of their titles, twice; once to a device owning market and again to a print market. Pathetic publishers with two different markets now for the same product. Adding to their woes, print sales only grow by double digits while screen book sales grow by triple.
Terminal types in desperation have innovated this double sales strategy by clever distinction of book ownership from book reading. Enjoy a book reading on the screen and then another and another. Enjoy book possession with an elegant exemplar of the work ready for positioning among others.
Silly, lingering publishers.
desgreene on October 22, 2010 8:25 PM:
Rather than a hospice, publishers are more likely to end up in a zoo where along with all the other threatened species they can be kept alive by the goodwill of those who prefer the non-digital past.