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Why Douglas Rushkoff left his publisher in order to publish a book

Posted by Christopher Shea  October 1, 2010 01:44 PM

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Douglas Rushkoff has some strong words about the publishing industry:

Until it utterly reworks its method, gets rid of a majority of its corporate dead weight, releases its publishing houses from the conglomerates that own them, and embraces direct selling models, the publishing industry will remain rather useless to readers and writers alike.
Of course, apocalyptic proclamations about the future of various media industries are a dime a dozen these days. But Rushkoff is backing up his words with action: His new book, "Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a Digital Age," is being published by O/R Books, a new venture founded by a friend of his, John Oakes. "The model is simple," Rushkoff writes:
work the concept with John, write the book, print and digitize it, and then sell it. No distribution, no marketing. Just put the link online and let people pay by credit card, paypal, or whatever method they choose. No middlemen, no markups, no returns. The book comes out two months after I’ve finished it, instead of two years. The public gets the book or ebook for half of what a "regular" book would cost--and the writer and publisher actually earn more, not less, per actual book sold.

But can a book survive if it's not in bookstores or even at Amazon.com? Rushkoff points out that Amazon already sells more books than anyone else (and, increasingly, does so in the e-book format). "So the only real question is whether people will follow a link to a place other than Amazon to buy a book, and whether they will be as comfortable using Google to find it as they are the search box on Amazon.com."

"I’m betting they will."


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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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