The latest edition of Book^2 Camp, a publishing and technology "unconference," took place yesterday, and while it lacked the star power of last year's Margaret Atwood appearance, it was another worthwhile Sunday afternoon full of thoughtful conversations about the future of publishing. Three quick takeaways.
As anyone who's actually worked within a "vertical" knows, whether from a niche consumer or business-to-business angle (or, heaven help them, for a non-profit organization or political campaign), just because a subset of people share a common passion doesn't mean they're a single-minded group that can be engaged in one templated way. Every vertical that presents a viable business opportunity is going to have its own sub-communities and overlapping layers, with some often in direct opposition to others.
There are a number of challenges indie booksellers face—a shit economy being the biggest of them—and there are many that won't succeed, not because Amazon put them out of business but because THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS TO MOST BUSINESSES. There are many neighborhoods that simply can't (or won't) support a local bookstore, and that's perfectly normal, too.
I casually followed the transition for a couple of months before losing interest, and was disappointed to check in last week to find an uninspired website and social media presence, and PDF-only digital editions. I also realized I hadn't noticed the magazine on the newsstands in months.
Nash took an honest shot at something he believed in and, more importantly, maintained his integrity throughout the process. While neither Cursor nor Red Lemonade ended up being the "game changers" some thought they might be, one could argue (and so I will) that the publishing industry overall is stronger for the attempt, and what *did* work shouldn't be lost in the discussion.