The short answer is: no. But our friends at GoodeReader beg to differ. And I think I want to add this trope to the list of ‘article topics which should be banned from the internet.’ Here is why.
Mercy Pilkington’s core assertion seems to be that every ‘solution’ which has come about so far favours someone other than the author. Therefore, she concludes that discoverability is the biggest issue facing publishing, and since no technology has come about to solve it, digital publishing is ‘broken.’
No, no, a thousand times no. First of all, readers—aka the customer, the only one paying actual money here for the product itself—do not have a discoverability problem. I have yet to meet a single eBook aficionado who has trouble finding stuff to read. If anything, many readers have too much stuff, and even Pilkington agrees that this has always been the way.
She laments as well that there is no technology yet invented which allows authors to get their books easily in front of their ideal reader. But again, hasn’t that always been the way? How would I, the potential author, even know if you are my ideal reader or not unless I can read your mind? How on earth can technology be expected to ‘solve’ that problem?
And why is that even about publishing? Isn’t every sales-related industry that way? The Beloved and I went through a Dragon’s Den phase in our Netflix watching last year—this is the somewhat gentler Canadian version of the show Shark Tank—and we would see entrepreneurs get asked this all the time. There was a lady who came on with organic baby food. So what, the ‘dragons’ asked her. Lots of companies make that. What makes your organic baby food different from everyone else’s? How do you plan to target the people who are buying other ones and get them to buy yours instead?
There was another guy who came on, and he had a special cheese. He was going to cheese trade shows where presumably, people who already had an interest in cheese were looking to buy. And indeed, some of them did. Others did not. There were customers he would potentially put himself in front of, who had already bought into the concept of buying cheese, and yet would choose not to buy HIS cheese.
Isn’t it the same with books? Isn’t this why you cannot promise authors a way to solve the discoverability issue with technology? Just because I like mysteries, it does not mean I will like YOUR mystery. That’s why the cheese guy didn’t sell to everybody at the cheese show, right? And even if you do have a hook—like the organic baby food lady did—it doesn’t mean your book will stand out in the crowd.
Publishing, whether through a company or as a sole entrepreneur, is a sale job as much as it is anything else. Writing may be an art form. But getting customers to buy the art is the same as getting them to buy anything else, and it is facile to say that is ‘broken’ just because you can’t magically sell more copies since it is a ‘book’ than you could if it was a piece of cheese or a jar of organic baby food or anything else you might sell on an open marketplace.