Shifting Authority: (Ex)Changing Roles in the Evolving Publishing Environment

By Simon Carolan and Christine Evain.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Authority is a key concept within the publishing industry. The various actors of the publishing process hold some form of authority, from the publisher who is considered both a qualitative and quantitative authority, to the reader who has the authority to choose and the power to buy. Recent changes to the industry, including the development of “digital-born” material and the important growth in self-publishing, are shaking the foundations of traditional publishing and changing the relationships between its players, as actors bypass each other and develop new creative, production and trading methods. As readers become authors, authors become distributors, distributors become publishers and publishers become cost-conscious, the traditional publishing hierarchy is being redefined. This redefinition raises the following questions: What does it mean to be an “authority”? How do industry players achieve and sustain authority? What is the composition of these new hierarchies? As the industry moves to collaborative production, is the process becoming democratic? As publishers face increasing competition, is it possible for them to uphold the standards that have established their authority? What are the implications of the “reputational economy”? Is the book the ultimate victim of this power struggle? The aim of this article is to define changing relations, to look at the emerging business models and to analyse the effect of these changes on both book production and book content. The contents of this article are based on the personal testimonies of authors, distributors, publishers and other industry players as well as print, journal and Internet articles and industry case studies.

Keywords: Publishing, Workflow, Authority

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp.53-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 349.802KB).

Simon Carolan

Design Engineer/PhD Student, Department of Communication, Foreign Languages & Corporate Cultures, Ecole Centrale de Nantes, Nantes, France

Simon Carolan is a full-time lecturer and researcher at the Ecole Centrale de Nantes in France. With a background in literature and cultural studies and a keen scientific curiosity, he is combining his passions for literature and scientific discovery as part of a novel multi-discipline, multi-national research entity. He has a series of upcoming articles and books on new technologies in the book industry, many of which were co-written with Dr. Christine Evain. He is currently building an innovative web platform built around social reading in collaboration with publishers, distributors and the general public as part of his thesis.

Assoc. Prof. Christine Evain

Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Foreign Languages & Corporate Cultures, Ecole Centrale de Nantes, Nantes, France

Christine Evain is an Associate Professor at ECN ("Ecole Centrale de Nantes,” French Graduate School of Engineering). She is responsible for the English and Business studies. She has written many books and articles on the book industry, as well as on several Canadian editors (Douglas Gibson, Louise Dennys, Jim Douglas, etc.) and authors including Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Alistair MacLeod. For the last fifteen years, she has been has been interviewing publishers, distributors, booksellers and authors in Europe, North America and Asia. Christine Evain is presently working in close collaboration with scientific departments at the ECN: she is part of a novel multi-discipline, multi-national research entity focusing on new technologies in the book industry.

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