Kevin O. McLaughlin, on his Swords & Starflight blog, writes about the future of publishing in terms of curation. It used to be, he says, that agents and publishers would choose to print the books that they imagined would sell best, and now, with the rise of self-publishing, we’re faced with a situation in which anyone can publish anything. This could mean that readers are overwhelmed with bad writing, but McLaughlin think that readerships will curate the new flood of books better than any publisher could have:

Crowd-sourced curation actually works pretty well. We see it in video, with YouTube. The videos that are not liked, sink. The videos which some cliques like rise in those groups. The videos which hit the mass public in some manner rise to the very top. It’s more or less the same in music today, too, with some indie groups able to compete pretty well for listeners with top labels. IF they are good enough to be liked by a bunch of folks. I think we’re just going to see the same thing happen in books.

Furthermore, he adds, the old “gatekeepers” haven’t really gone anywhere, and will find new ways to gatekeep:

What some folks have missed in their worry about change is that the real gatekeeper is not going away. Or even changing. The agents and publishers were always acting as gatekeepers for the reader – who has always been the final gatekeeper. With the importance of additional levels of gatekeeping ading (gone already, some might suggest), what we’ve really lost is the levels of folks guessing at what the real gatekeepers are looking for.

Originally Published: March 14th, 2011