Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turning Book Publishing Inside Out

A printing press in Kabul, Afghanistan.Image via WikipediaContinuing the series of collaboration and coordination platforms (C&C platforms) I wanted to look at a more concrete example of how cc platforms can change an industry and how they work to turn existing businesses inside out. My example will look at book publishing.

Book publishing has a range of steps to produce an end result (a book in the shops that is purchased by a consumer). Let’s look at the steps:

  1. Author a book
  2. Find a publisher willing to publish your book
  3. Edit the book
  4. Make changes to your book
  5. Create Cover art
  6. Print and bind book
  7. Market Book
  8. Ship book to stores
  9. Distribute revenue

Now I realise it isn’t necessarily as smooth as the list makes out and some of the items happen in parallel, but for purposes of the example it works. Steps 3 to 9 are currently the realm of the publisher. That arose as a publisher was the only one who could organise the resources needed to complete steps 3 to 9 at reasonable cost.

But with Collaboration and Coordination platforms this is no longer true. C&C platforms reduce the costs of coordinating the various activities that you don’t need a vertically integrated publisher to achieve a sold book.

For an author to publish their book, the C&C platform would provide them with access to a market of editors, designers to create cover art, print-on-demand services, book marketing services and payment features. The C&C platform doesn’t provide all the services rather it organises them and reduces the transaction costs of using services from multiple providers.

Say I am an author of a book. I upload my manuscript to the C&C platform. I then begin the workflow of publishing the book with the system creating an alert to editors that a new manuscript is ready for editing. The editor that I select then makes the edits and uploads the changes to the manuscript; I review and accept or push-back on until we arrive at something both are happy with. I then need to create the cover art and the system again creates an alert for designers. I select a designer and they get access to the manuscript so they can create relevant cover art. Once the cover art is agreed, the art is uploaded to the system and I progress to the next stage.

I now have a book ready to go, so I need to pass the manuscript and cover art along to a POD provider. This I do with a simple click on a button loading the book into the system of the POD provider I have selected. This also puts advertising and listing of the book into key retailers and I can begin the marketing of the book. It may be that I need support for the marketing which I can source through the platform as well.

The C&C platform guides the user through the steps necessary to complete a task (publishing a book), handles the necessary communications, makes sure everyone is paid and manages the media. It coordinates the various markets for each service so that together they can achieve a task. C&C platforms reduce the transaction costs to the point that a Firm in the Coaseian sense is not the most effective manner in achieving a task.

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