I think we all probably suffer from information overload, and I know that those of us who work in publishing are often even more inundated. At this point, I’ve stopped adding to my RSS reader, and I’m actually taking off all the things I never get around to reading. And, though I love technology and all it affords us, I’m generally trying to pare down. So I was fascinated by this Ars Technica article I found this week. To sum up, Oxford University Press has created a scholarly, peer-reviewed search engine that allows users to find worthwhile articles on specific subjects. Now, instead of wading through pages and pages of Google results to find out what to read on, say, Menander of Athens, you can find out what the authorities think you need to know. And with the curators of each section listed, you can decide for yourself if they’re expert enough to trust.
And while that’s publishing-related enough to mention, it brought to mind some of the ongoing discussion about the future of trade publishing. There’s been talk lately that publishers are on the way out, as authors can now just publish directly through several ebook and POD options. But with statistics like the most recent ones from Bowker stating that over 1,000,000 titles were published last year, I believe publishers and editors become all the more necessary. No one has time to find what they want out of a million titles, so readers will expect someone to help direct them and narrow their choices. That job is going to fall to publishers, their imprints and their editors, all of whose names will be more important in the future as readers will expect that each name means something. It’s not just the amazing editorial, design, publicity and marketing that publishers bring to the table; it’s also the simple act of separating the wheat from the chaff. In a world of information overload, it’s hard to put a price on that service.
But am I just being a publishing Pollyanna? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.