The world of books is witnessing a herculean power struggle.
The establishment—led by publishers and retailers—is fighting to maintain their grasp on the keys to the castle of all-things books. But the writing is on the wall: the stronger they squeeze their fists the more influence (and relevance) slips through their fingers.
Independent authors, self-publishing enterprises, freelance editors, and agents are all tugging together on the other side of that rope. These ranks of independents are gaining ground in the lands of writing quality, production value, book sales, and marketing opportunities. Their efforts are noteworthy, but it’d be false to praise them outright as the true game changers.
Another class of people is exerting even greater influence upon the power-shift.
Readers have always been important to the vitality of the book economy, but never more so than now. Advances in technology—hardware (e.g. Kindle), web services (a la GoodReads), and social fundraising (hat-tip Kickstarter)—are empowering readers in fundamentally new and profound ways.