After graduating I started my career in a research unit within a government bureaucracy. My very first task was to undertake qualitative research—a series of interviews with 20 industry participants—and distill the findings and formulate recommendations for action.
In six weeks I had finished the document. I had gathered a lot of information, undertaken analysis, and wrote a report that I thought was both readable, rich in intel and hopefully actionable.
I asked my supervisor what was to be done with the report? I’ll never forget his answer: ‘put it in the filing cabinet’. To say I was disillusioned was an understatement. In the filing cabinet it stayed for at least the several years I worked there, periodically revisited only by its melancholy author. These visits were like laying flowers at the grave of a young friend.
What motivated me to start a publishing company?
The seed of my publishing company was planted the same day I buried my report in that filing cabinet. My research and my ideas had no voice. In modern parlance I had been ‘de-platformed’.
Serhii Plokhy’s book Chernobyl – History of a Tragedy documents people of the Soviet era struggling for voice:
Yaroshinskaya was reduced to distributing copies of her article to her friends. In the era of glasnost, she had no choice but to return to samizdat—the practice, perfected by Soviet dissidents of the previous era, of copying prohibited texts on private typewriters and circulating copies among friends and acquaintances.
Yaroshinskava’s text told of the Soviet authorities bungled response to one of the world’s greatest ecological disasters. De-platformed, she laboriously retyped her text—I hope she had access to carbon paper. In this light it’s encouraging to think that today anyone can find voice online or in print. Publishing has been democratised. Democratisation means making something accessible to everyone— anyone can get published. Whether it’s those with theories, ideas or stories, everyone gets to have a voice.
Decades later my staff, associates and I run a busy, growing publishing company. We are capable of taking any content, shaping it, displaying it and distributing it to its intended readership.
Book publishing has It’s returned to where it all started
For much of the 20th century the publishing industry was hierarchical, multi-layered and dominated by large publishing juggernauts. There were writers, editors, agents, brokers, designers, printers, promoters, sellers and resellers, wholesalers, retailers, and a labyrinth of other roles—too many to mention.
Today that complex hierarchy remains. It’s more concentrated than ever with as few as four big consortiums controlling most of the global market.
But the good news is, as always: new technology has disrupted the industry. Today new players can quickly get traction and participate in publishing.
The invention of the printing press is known as one of the greatest inventions to shape modern civilisation. In 1444, Johannes Gutenberg devised movable metal type. He was the world’s first self-publisher of significance. There was little hierarchy and little industrial and institutional distance between Guttenberg and his readers. He published the Bible.
The gap between content creator and reader has flattened yet again.
An opportunity for creators of content
Today digital print-on-demand, drop shipping, and online marketing has smashed barriers to entry into the publishing industry. This means the ever-popular and influential print book can be easily produced and delivered into the hands of readers. And then there’s the beautiful and revolutionary eBook.
Never before has publishing been in such a state of flux. Right now there’s so much opportunity for creators of quality content to strengthen their voice.
Serhii Plokhy, Chernobyl – History of A Tragedy Penguin Random House UK 2018 pg 310
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