Citizen publishing – get your mind around this concept

I have a suggestion for those of you who have despaired of explaining blogging to friends and business associates who are just now beginning to hear about weblogs on TV or in the papers.

Try explaining blogs as a form of citizen publishing and see what their responses are. I think you will find a sudden dawning of comprehension. They might even startle you with the questions they ask once the concept sinks in.

Weblogs come in many flavors: journals, essays, emotional diatribes, collections of links, photos, essays, etc., but each can be described as a form of citizen publishing. I first saw this term being used on BlogsCanada. It immediately struck me that this concept opens the door to a better understanding of the power and the potential of blogging than any other term in use.

Get the idea that more than 3,000,000 people are publishing their thoughts and concerns in a way that an incredibly large audience can access these ideas. Most of these writers will not attract an audience and will not care that no one visits their site. However, there are thousands who will be writing material that you will want to read, and their ideas are being captured and preserved every day in weblogs on the internet.

How long do you thing it will be before some of these essayists will be publishing books of their best works and promoting them on the very weblog that they first appeared? With Publish on Demand, it becomes much easier to capture an interesting body of work, create an appropriate package, and make it available for sale while a more traditional author is still searching for an agent.

Update: I need to emphasize these differences:

In citizen publishing, the content is what matters.

In the traditional world of publishing, distribution is what matters.

In yesterday’s world of publishing, editors man the chokepoints and try to select a few “winners” from the flood of manuscripts pouring in on them. Getting published is often more a matter of who you know than what you have written. Furthermore, the publishing industry is resistant to adding new genres, because new genres upset the orderly structure of distribution systems and bookseller displays.

Citizen publishing on the web via weblogs opens the doors to an unlimited number of channels and genres. It even opens the door to different publishing models, like publishing novels online in serial form at a rate of an installment every few weeks.

Author Cory Doctorow has found that free online versions of a novel actually helped book sales, contrary to what you might expect.

If I were a traditional publisher, I would be frantically rethinking my business model and figuring how to capture the best of this outpouring and make money distributing it. Weblog productivity and reach threatens to turn the current publishing industry inside out. If traditional publishers cannot figure out to add value in a world of citizen publishers, they will go the way of computer service centers.

Similarly, authors who do not blog may be left in the dust by upstart authors who develop followings and sell books while the non-bloggers are still trying to persuade overloaded publishers to consider their work.

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