Publishers must change "radically' in digital age - Johnson

Publishers must change "radically' in digital age - Johnson

Publishers selling direct to readers, printers folding and more agents becoming publishers are some of the implications of digital, claims former Borders chairman Luke Johnson.

In his weekly column for the Financial Times, Johnson claims digital may transform book publishing more than any other industry. He said: "There will surely be material deflation in the price of e-books over time. The inevitable disappearance of the vast majority of bookshops will remove a main marketing channel and will seriously undermine the power of publishers.

"It will also increase the scary dominance of Amazon. Book printers will, sadly, mostly go out of business, and physical books will become more expensive as a consequence of reduced economies of scale."

He said the power of literary agents will increase but he warned: "Literary agents will become more powerful, but also riven with conflicts, as they turn their hands to publishing and become the very organisations they warn their clients about."

He said digital was transform rights trading. "E-books make a nonsense of the archaic practice of dividing geographic rights by territory." Johnson, who is a non-executive director at Phaidon, said publishers must change their models "radically", adding he expects further consolidation in the sector. They should become branding experts, following the lead of the For Dummies series, and "forget about upsetting bookstores" by selling direct to consumers.

Johnson also branded the seven months it has taken his forthcoming Portfolio title Start It Up to go from manuscript to bookshop as "ludicrous". He said: "I will never write another book in this traditional way. I suspect the future for many types of publishing is brief, rapidly produced, good value e-books that may even be self-published."