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Does curation work for publishers?

June 7, 2012
by seth godin

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One mantra heard often is, “in a world with a million ebooks, readers need curators.”

Of course, traditional publishers are good at curation, because traditional books are expensive to publish, so they had to be picky, merely as a method of self preservation.

That pickiness leads to widespread rejection of books like A Confederacy of Dunces and Harry Potter, but let’s set that aside for a moment.

The challenge of curation by an individual publisher is this: readers have no idea who publishes what books.

If the marketplace is wide open, an infinite, endless bazaar that anyone can access, the game theory behind an individual publisher voluntarily publishing fewer books is pretty hard to see. If the readers don’t understand where the books are coming from, one organization (or even thirty) holding back isn’t going to have any impact at all.

No, the only way to make curation work is to have it in place alongside permission. If the publisher has direct contact with the reader, THEN she can build trust, build brand, build identity and be rewarded for her curative (curationitive?) powers. Once you associate a publisher with quality choices, then (and only then), the curation pays off.

One more reason why publishers have to urgently build a permission asset of readers who actually want to hear from them.

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