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The Role of Publishers in the Changing Book Market – 5 Questions with Hugh McGuire

Here is the second edition of our five question series. Our second guest is Hugh McGuire, founder of Pressbooks, a company that allows self-publishers to create professional crafted books for their ebooks and POD print books. Hugh will also be joining us tonight on #IndieChat to talk about the best practices for converting your blog into a ebook or POD print book.

Read below to see Hugh’s opinion on what is currently missing in book publishing, as well as what he believes will be the role of publishers in the changing book market:
1) Tell us about your background and how you started Pressbooks.
My entry into digital publishing was LibriVox, which I started back in 2005. is a Web project that gets volunteers to make audio recordings of public domain books, and give them away for free. It’s a big community, and a successful project, with thousands of participants, and thousands of free audiobooks that have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times. was inspired by the platform we created for publishing audiobooks at LibriVox, with the idea to build tools to make it easy for people to publish books. Pressbooks focuses on the hard “technical” part of creating well-formatted ebooks for different platforms, and well-designed PDFs for print and print-on-demand.
So the idea behind Pressbooks was to make one hard part of book publishing easy, to make the “means of production” available and accessible to anyone who wants to publish a book.
2) What do you think is the one thing missing right now in book publishing?
One thing? There are so, so many problems, but when I zoom out and think about this question holistically, I would say: “a relentless focus on making readers happy.”
Amazon has been such a dominant force in the book world largely because they have focused on the reader, on delivering what readers want: easy access to ebooks, easy delivery of paper books to your door, a seamless buying experience.
I think the book industry (and not just Amazon) needs to spend a lot more time and energy trying to deliver reader happiness.
3) What role do you see publishers playing in the changing landscape of book publishing?
I think publishers will get better — much better — at online marketing. Not just “being” on Twitter and Facebook, but really having overarching strategies to reach readers, and bring them to the books they are publishing.
The hardest thing in any business — whether it is publishing or tech startups or running a restaurant — is reaching your audience and convincing them to “buy” whatever you are selling.
A lot of people are self-publishing because they feel they can do a better job of reaching their audience than traditional publishers can. But this is **the** fundamental job of a publisher (one who “makes public”). So, as self-publishers get better at this, publishers will too, eventually.
Whether it’s publishers we know who get better at this, or other, new publishers remains to be seen.
4) What’s your favorite book of all time?
I have a handful of about five books I keep going back to, which are my favourites, and are kept together on a particular shelf in my house. I probably re-read one or another of these books once a year. “Under the Volcano,” by Malcolm Lowry is the favourite I re-read most recently. It’s a dense and difficult novel, but a masterpiece.
Also, share something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I still play rugby, and I love cooking.
5) What are some of your predictions for 2015?
* We’ll see another big merger in the publishing world.
* Nook will go out of business.
* Apple will buy Oyster.
* Many more self-published authors will be making their books available in print (using print-on-demand).
* Google will make a big book-related announcement, then do nothing.

  • “Slow reading” will be promoted as a proven antidote to digital distraction, and will start an explosion of reading worldwide.

About Hugh McGuire: 
Hugh McGuire has been “hacking book culture” and its relationship to the web for nine years. Hugh is the founder of the Pressbooks ( platform (built on top of WordPress), which enables indie authors and publishers to produce professional-looking books for the ebook and print-on-demand markets. Previously, he created Librivox (, the world’s largest library of free, public domain audiobooks. Hugh is also the co-editor, with Brian O’Leary, of Book, a Futurist’s Manifesto:
His work has appeared in various places in print, bits and audio, including: the New York Times, Forbes, the LA Times, BBC Radio, the New Yorker, CBC Radio, NPR, Techcrunch and Pando Daily.


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