The editor and the e-book

As Amazon and other electronic publishers continue their creeping reach into the industry, it is tempting to think that the digital revolution will change the fundamental landscape of the publishing industry. It won't.

Electronic publishers still have to play by the rules laid down long before the invention of the internet. They must still negotiate fairly with authors, they must edit and copyedit their manuscripts to a high shine, and they must market and publicize their books to the hilt to make them sell.

If they don't, the consequences will be the same: unsold books. A prime example of this was a recent mix-up by HarperCollins. Normally, a book goes through several stages of editing - from a general editing of plot, and structure to a more detailed line-by-line editing. However, something went horribly wrong and an unproofed electronic version of Terry Prachett's book "Snuff" was sold to readers. Readers were incensed and most demanded their money back.

It is too early to make a judgement about the long-term impact of the digital revolution on print publishing, but one thing is certain: many of the systems and processes in the publishing industry have been built out of long decades of trial and error and it is unlikely that they will go away - no matter what format the final product ends up being.


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