Is this guy OK? Publishing has much to learn from gaming! Gaming? Digital Book World gives Tom Chalmers space to provide us with this insight. “Going back to gaming, though, it quickly becomes clear how slick—if not ruthless—its ordering is. Publishing, by comparison, is over-complicated, with a winding and circling chain of authors, publishers, agents, sub-agents, distributors, retailers, wholesalers—the list goes on.” — See the problem? It’s those pesky authors, agents, retailers etc. who are ruining the business. We need to get them out of the way, employ a couple of slick creative types, set up direct to consumer sales operations and sit back while the money rolls in. We all know gaming is successful; I don’t think we’d argue the toss on that. I’ve no idea what the breakeven on a game is, but no doubt it’s quite high. A successful book can sell fewer than 500 copies. It’s a different business Mr Chalmers.

Of course (sorry to bore by saying this yet again) this sort of comment arises from the lazy assumption that “publishing” means trade publishing. Has trade publishing anything to learn from gaming? Maybe. But I suspect the traffic might actually be in the other direction: we have after all been at this a bit longer than they have, and do tend to have learned some tricks over the centuries. Just because industry X is successful doesn’t mean that everyone needs to do what they are doing. What does gaming have in common with books?

  1. both make use of narrative
  2. gaming is a form of entertainment, as are some books
  3. they are both bought in book-shaped packages (or nowadays downloaded)
  4. some have claimed that game playing can be educational, though that’s usually in answer to claims that kids playing games are wasting their time.

I can’t really think of any other similarities. All of these characteristics could be used to claim with equal justification, that publishing has much to learn from the movie business. Look, if you think the book business us stupid, just play games and stop pretending you are a reader. The trade structure we have is the structure that has evolved over five centuries. In so far as it is sub-optimal it will evolve and change, as it has always done in the past. So will the way games are made and sold, if indeed they manage to hang around long enough for this to happen.

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