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DIY Music vs. DIY Publishing

Podpeep links to an interesting article about the DIY music phenomenon and why self-released music gets so much more respect than self-released writing.  The article quotes the editor of Paste Magazine as saying: “In the book world, it’s so fragmented, with so many publishing houses out there, that somebody doing something on their own has more of a stigma because it suggests that everybody else passed on it.”

That hardly seems to be the problem.  I have no firm numbers, but I would imagine there are more small indie labels than there are publishers – especially when you factor in CD-R labels, mp3 labels, and the rest.  The main reason, I would think, is that it only takes 3 minutes to listen to a song and you’ll know quickly if it’s good or bad – and it is much easier for that song to be spread from listener to listener and go viral.  Books, on the other hand, can take days to read – it’s a less-accessible format.

That and the fact that people have been passing music around for decades – on demo tapes, then demo CDs, now demo mp3’s.  The concept of the electronic book and print on demand is just now coming into fashion, it’s got a lot of catching up to do.  In short, DIY publishing will have the same cache as DIY music, it just doesn’t currently.

There’s a good article over at Slate about what the ebook revolution will do for authors in the near future (there’s a good article about ebooks written every third minute):

These books suggest a truly Darwinian future for the book business. With the Kindle, a plucky writer can publish and promote her own work at very little cost beyond time and determination. Once she proves her appeal with a sufficiently impressive rate of sale, she’ll merit having her words printed on paper and distributed. Everyone benefits from the efficiency.

With enough Kindles in the hands of tastemaking, trendsetting readers, publishers won’t really need many editors or marketers. They’ll acquire the right to print and distribute books on the basis of already established success. Think of the Kindle as brute force focus group or a 21st-century version of opening in New Haven.

That’s another way of saying that the Kindle is another way of doing what self-publishers are now starting to do: test-marketing a book to show traditional publishers that it can have wider appeal.  But in the future, even that won’t be necessary, because if your test-marketing is a success, and enough people own and use e-readers, there will be no reason to have a publisher whatsoever.

They thought recordable tapes would destroy the music industry.  They’ve said the same thing about CD-R’s and mp3’s and now ebooks are set to alter the publishing industry.  It’s not being overly optimistic to think that in the near future DIY publishing and DIY music will be on a level field.