I changed my twitter profile recently from "I write." to "I write in the morning. I make ebooks all day. I write in the evening. I do other stuff." There was some confusion to this statement. It was presumed that I self-publish in ebook format, and that is not the case. I work for a publishing company as a media project manager. One of the things I am responsible for creating is the ebook (in its many formats, pdf, xml, flash, etc). I changed it because in the pub-o-sphere, the paradigm of agents giving advice to aspiring writers, they can forget that we have day jobs too. I have eight years in publishing, six of those in media production. I have participated in the creation of estrategy and worked the guidelines for xml creation from typeset PDFs of finished books. So, you can imagine, when an agent tells me I'm wrong about ebooks, it grinds my gears. The closest an agent will get on the production side is perhaps giving feedback on a cover. When it comes to this part of the business, the paradigm is reversed. There is a caveat to all this.
On my website, I list the jobs I've held. At the bottom of the list is my current job in educational publishing. My web presence elsewhere is part of the trade publishing community, blogs, twitter, just like how all of you found me at one point or another. In that environment where there is a limit to characters or an amount of time you can make your point before readers go on to the next post, I leave off the "educational" because most people don't understand the difference. I also say I work for a big 6 publisher because I do not want to say which publisher it is and there isn't a term any of you would understand otherwise. I do work for the parent company of one of the big six. I am in their higher education division rather than their trade pub division.
Here's why this matters: 1) The acquisition of trade titles is different than the acquisition of education titles. For all my bad experiences with a perpetually late editorial staff that has no understanding of production or media (of which there are many), I have no basis to claim the same for trade.
2) I do not want it to appear as if I am intentionally deceiving people or suggesting that I have a role in trade when I do not. I have never worked in trade and never intend to do so as anything but an author.
Here's why it doesn't: 1) In corporate strategy sessions, technological strategy often has to take into account both sides of the business. Efficiency is always the key word and a method I use for making my ebook is highly likely to be used on the trade side as well. Disparate systems cost money!
2) Print and media in general are established workflows that are not affected by what they are publishing. Printing a book is printing a book. You need to know your trim size, your paper weight, your final page count, the weight of the paper for the cover, and various milestones for your schedule. The subject matter of the book doesn't matter. The printing process is the same. The same is true for media. An enhanced ebook is an enhanced ebook. File format matters MUCH more than subject matter. Is this thing for Kindle? Nook? Our own proprietary ebook viewing system? The skill set I have in media transfers 100% to trade.
So there you go. Full disclosure. I work for the largest publisher in the world. So often people say largest and they're just talking about trade, when in fact they should consider trade and education. It actually obscures a lot of "predictions" on where publishing is going because people only focus on trade. Educational publishing puts trade publishing to shame. So when you think, oh no, ebooks are going to kill publishing. I laugh. I laugh heartily. Trade publishing is having difficulty adjusting to ebooks, but Education has been pushing as hard as it can for years to get to this point. The ebook revolution is a gold mine for educational publishing. Where does educational publishing lose the most money? Not piracy. Used book stores. How do you sell an ebook to a used book store? Exactly. A collapse of the trade division of my company would see total yearly revenue drop by only 25%.
The end of publishing? Oh no, my friends. This is only the beginning.
(Technical note: The information in this post is stated as personal observation and without review by my HR department. The information is non-proprietary and represents experiences gained working at two separate publishing companies over the course of 8 years. Chill.)