The book may not be dead, but it’s now competing with other delivery formats that are changing the way we access and interact with content.
By Stan Jantz
On a recent Sunday morning at my church, I saw the future of content and publishing in the face of a woman named Laurie, one of the members of the adult Bible study I teach. At the end of our class time on this particular Sunday, Laurie approached me with her latest purchase, a sleek new Kindle 2, the popular electronic book reading device produced by Amazon.
Laurie’s face was glowing as she proceeded to give me a quick demonstration, explaining several of Kindle’s amazing features. Before I could utter a “gee whiz,” she went on to show me her iPhone, complete with the Kindle application that allows her to sync content between the two devices.
In less than five minutes, in the face of a woman named Laurie, I saw the future of content and publishing. It’s a future too that pastors with a “book in their head” had better heed.
The content revolution
As someone who ministers in a church, you have also seen the future of content. If you spend time communicating in front of an audience — whether it’s a congregation, a class or a small group — you are accustomed to seeing people use their mobile phones, iPods and Kindles right in front of you, often accessing information almost as fast as you can give it.
For most of the last 550 years — since the invention of the printing press — people have accessed content primarily by reading books, newspapers and magazines. In the last century, with the advent of motion pictures and broadcast media, people have also been able to access audio and visual content, but for real information — the kind you can trust — nothing has replaced the printed page.
While traditional print publishing is still a behemoth — total book sales are projected to be just over $35 billion this year — the industry is declining in a way that will only accelerate in the coming years. The book may not be dead, but it’s now competing with other delivery formats that are changing the way we access and interact with content.
Whether it’s the woman in my Bible study gushing about her Kindle, or your high school kid texting messages faster than you can think, the evidence is all around us. There’s no question we are in the middle of a content revolution. And it’s affecting the pastor who wants to “get into print” with his idea of a book.
Driving the revolution
There are at least three factors driving this revolution. First, there’s technology — with the development of the Internet and the related software and hardware.
Second, there’s changing demographics — the millennials or Generation Y who have absolutely no loyalties to the printed page. If anything, they won’t even touch a book until they have first sampled the content electronically. Most wouldn’t be caught dead holding a newspaper.
The third factor driving the content revolution is social media. This fairly recent phenomenon is embodied by such Internet-enabled content vehicles as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, not to mention the ubiquitous blog.
John Blossom, author of the book Content Nation, estimates there are now more than 100 million people around the world who use social media to influence others. “It’s not just that people are using social media more and more,” he writes. “It’s also that they’re generating more and more content that begins to challenge traditional publishers to get people’s attention.”
You can’t get rid of print because there will always be people who prefer the tactile nature of ink on paper. But you also can’t ignore new media, especially if you’re interested in reaching just about anybody under the age of 40. And that’s every church in the country.
Now you can publish
If you have ever aspired to write a book, you undoubtedly dream of someday seeing your book in print. Yet the costs of publishing a book in the traditional way — including editing, design, printing and distribution — make it almost cost-prohibitive. The only reason a publisher would be willing to take a chance on your book idea, no matter how compelling it seems, is if the publisher is reasonably certain your book will sell tens of thousands of copies in the first year. Short of that assurance, it’s unlikely that you will ever be published in the traditional sense.
Publishing has always been a tough, discouraging business for aspiring authors, mainly because the business model has been the same for hundreds of years. Thankfully, that model is breaking down, due to the three factors I’ve already mentioned. But there’s a fourth factor.
The fourth factor in the content revolution is Print on Demand (sometimes known as Publishing on Demand) or POD technology. As compared to “offset” printing, where the unit price of a book is determined by the number of copies printed, POD technology enables a publisher — which could be a company, a church or an individual — to print books only when an order is placed (thus the term, “on demand”).
The scalable economics of POD are achieved through technology that has been developed in just the last few years. The largest POD company in the world is Lightning Source Industries (LSI), located in Nashville, TN. Through a sophisticated data management system, combined with state-of-the-art print technology, LSI can produce a single copy of a book from digital file to completion in a single day. And the cost of printing one copy of an average-size book is less than five dollars.
Companies to check out
Companies like Xulon Press, an established company that helps authors self-publish, and Conversant Media Group, a new media publishing company linked to the content and social media Web site www.ConversantLife.com, are employing POD technology to help aspiring authors produce books for a limited audience.
For example Conversant recently partnered with media expert Phil Cooke to produce his latest book, The Last TV Evangelist. In just three months Conversant produced his book for a fraction of what it would have cost a traditional publisher. Cooke promotes the book on his Web site, and whenever he speaks he orders as many books as he needs for that occasion.
You don’t need thousands of people to buy your book to make it a success. Your circle of influence and the way you connect with people in your personal network can create a valuable and willing market for your best ideas, especially if you link your book to a personal Web site or a larger media site like www.ConversantLife.com.
I’ve seen the future of content, and so have you. It’s vertical and accessible and instant, and like all content informed by the truth of God and His word, it has the potential to change lives in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago. CE
Stan Jantz is the co-founder of Conversant Media Group, Huntington Beach, CA. He has co-written, with Bruce Bickel, more than 50 books, including the popular Christianity 101 series for Harvest House Publishers. [www.conversantmediagroup.com]
PUBLISHING ON DEMAND RESOURCES