A comment on a post about the impact of the Internet on the publishing industry makes an neat analogy. It suggests that the Internet will probably change the book publishing industry the way TV changed the old movie industry.
The old movie studio system is similar to the current publishing houses. Centralized production and promotion. The studios died and currently, the big movie stars have to hire their own staff of promotion people to support their celebrity. It used to be that this was handled by the studio. The internet offers the opportunity to decentralize the process. Independent marketers, writers, editors working a project like an actor or director for a movie. Better get a good agent quick.
I had earlier written about how Amazon could do an eBay for book publishing.
Rather than relying on publishers who decide what to publish and take on the risks of publishing a title, a new entity could help authors by setting up an eBay like portal for publishing tasks. Authors could then take on the risks of publishing (keeping all the rewards to themselves), and outsource all the actual tasks of a publishing house to editors, printers, distributors, marketing agents etc. who would all bid for jobs by various authors, through the eBay like portal.
What happened to the old movie houses is very likely to happen to the publishing business over time. Lightning Source (printing on demand) and Ingram (distribution) already offer to help authors take on the publishing risks. What is needed is a means for authors to find editorial and marketing help at a price they can afford.
On a related note, the Freakonomics Blog discusses if the Internet is the Publishing Industry’s Best Friend.