What is Publishing?

When I committed to attend Kingston University for a Masters degree in publishing, I had several conceptions of the profession. As word spread of my decision, many people asked what career path I was looking towards. Finding it hard to answer, I responded honestly, “I want to create books.” The realization came that not only was my definition of the publishing world unsatisfactory, but so was the general publics. This lack of focused understanding seemed to be a problem that only my future courses at Kingston could solve.

Two months into my degree I find those earlier questions almost harder to answer. With the rapid succession of technological changes, the whole publishing world seems to be walking on a tightrope. Publishing is fighting against the gravity of technology, and holding tight to the traditions of print. It is working hard to find a balance. The function of a publishing house yesterday has readjusted itself for tomorrow. With each step on the tightrope, the definition of publishing is reinvented. One foot after the other, it is stepping away from the extravagant past of spreading religious texts, to dealing with daily death threats of the printed word. They have to find solid footing.

They are coping with the growing popularity of e-books, aided by Amazon’s Kindle, which allows an author to pass over publishers and give the book right to their readers. E-books and the unsupervised world of blogging are adding to the list of challenges that publishers have to face. They have to adapt more insightfully with every new advancement.

Let's just say I left my charger in London and I am exceptionally sad about that unfortunate fact.

When people ask me what publishing will contribute to society now, how do I answer them? How you define a business that has to readjust with the quick pace of an informative industry? It is no wonder there is confusion and curiosity when people ask me about publishing. Most readers are aware of houses, such as Penguin Publishing, but they are ill-informed on how their business functions. A majority of the market is unaware of what happens between the author’s construction of the text and the physical book they can hold. Even those in publishing today have a limited idea of how technology will affect the relationships with their authors in the future. Technology is causing diversity through the ranks in this business. It supplies those in the field with a wide range of definitions.

So, how should we define publishing? It should be defined with the same passion and dedication that has allowed publishing to last from those religious texts all the way to our e-books. I now define publishing as teamwork dedicated on finding the right balance to disseminate information to a diverse culture of print and technology. I define it as a prevailing business that is strong and agile enough to find a balance on that tightrope.

Author: Kristin Bergene November 2011

*This blog post was assessment for my Business in Publishing course. Also, I see the irony of posting a commentary of how blogs are one of the rising complications to the publishing world on my own blog. It is equally important to mention that I own a Kindle, and I love my Kindle, (seen above). It feels good to get that off my book-loving chest. 

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