BoSacks: No B.S.: What is a Publisher?
Most of us who read this magazine are in the word business. We are so sophisticated at this business that our expertise in wordsmanship has actual monetary value. People are willing to pay in one way or another for the clever and useful words we produce. I would add to that that we, and perhaps musicians, are one of the few industries that don't actually produce a physical product.Don't mistake a magazine, a book or a recording for the final product; those are only the atomic carriers of the thinking that we as wordsmiths produce. Those products are painlessly transferring the thinking from one human brain into another, seamlessly, without a scalpel or other intrusive implements.
With that in mind, here are a few rhetorical questions for you word workers. You may or may not have an answer to these questions, but it seems to me that, as we are reinventing major portions of our industry, some old-world definitions need to be reviewed for authenticity and some important questions are worth asking of the professionals in our field.
How do you define publishing? Wait—let me adjust that question just a little. In today's world of unlimited access to multiple distribution channels, in an era where everyone is a broadcaster, what exactly is a publisher?
There was a time not too long ago in this magazine when we discussed in great detail what a magazine is. It seems appropriate to take the conversation one step higher and figure out if the once-unique producers of these products require a new identifier in the crowded space of international word distribution.
As most of us read the trade magazines and newspapers of our industry, we know there are numerous organizations now being called publishers that have no print products whatsoever. They don’t even have what we would identify as bona fide publications. They are, at best, informational websites. Does that mean that any company that deals with words as a global resource can and should be called a publisher? I get that anyone who requests, assigns, approves, adjusts and copy edits a bevy of words is an editor, but is anyone who distributes words a publisher?