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Last week the Canadian publishing world buzzed with speculation brought on by the potential bankruptcy of a major Canadian publisher (Douglas & McIntyre) and the merger of Random House and Penguin. The Globe and Mail (my local paper) interviewed several industry players for perspective.

A few phrases caught my eye: “the merger will be a disaster”, “writers will have few options”, “I can’t imagine that bigger means necessarily better”, “it’s not a good thing for young authors”, “this is an extraordinary way to fight Amazon”, “the problem with publishing is it’s hard”. I like the last one best.

If we look at the situation from a $$ perspective, the squeeze becomes clear.

While the diagram is simplistic, look at how many times the word ‘select’ occurs. Ask yourself whether readers need all that selecting. Then ask yourself whether all that gatekeeping produces sufficient value for the cost involved.

Writers seek remuneration for hours of effort along with the joy of having their books read; readers seek quality entertainment and information at reasonable prices. The value offered by agents, publishers, reviewers, and retailers is threatened by new business models and technologies, by writers determined to get their product to market and by readers no longer relying on traditional mechanisms. Anything getting in the way of these objectives is subject to disruption.