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'This huge, discounting, rights-trading, jargon-babbling profiteering melée...'

15 March 2010

'The old triumvirate of writer-agent-publisher that once shaped the shopfronts of Britishbooksellers has disappeared under remorseless sales pressure. When the recession exposed the faulty logic of the marketplace equation in a creative industry, the collapse of the retail side became the top story in the lives of most writers today. Scarcity of resources in a shrinking market has touched every aspect of the business. But this perfect storm may have a silver lining: the IT revolution. Just as one generation of writers faces the prospect of the garret, another kind of challenge confronts the new kids on the block: how to navigate the myriad, conflicting opportunities and temptations of online publishing. For the garret, read Starbucks.

The prospects for the laptop generation are considerably brighter than for the typewriter veterans, but still opaque. Ask anyone in the business about the future of traditional publishing and you get variations on the theme of "Nobody knows anything"...

Whatever the future, a new generation of agents and publishers sees the old publishing model as broken. There must, they say, be a marriage between virtual and old text worlds. This generation speaks the jargon of "disintermediation" (roughly, commercial streamlining). The boom days are over. Writers will have to adapt.

From copyright down, every aspect of the business is being redefined. In the short term, the quickest route out of the garret will be to find comfort in concepts like "clouds", DRM (digital rights management) and "interoperability", the cutting edge of innovation.'

Robert McCrum in the Guardian