You've got writers like Anthony Horowitz, who is a wizened veteran of the field, questioning the very need for traditional publishing houses as the literary industry moves into the modern age. With companies like Apple and Amazon waiting at the gates with offers of 70% royalty on all profits from books published via their digital platforms, there are now a myriad of ways to publish your writing without needing to send of those pesky submissions or wait in the Withnail and I hinterland for commissions.
The antithesis to Horowitz' musing is staring you in the face as you read this. Valley Press is a grass roots product of literary enthusiasm and by looking for the best in new and exciting writing, it's only gone and got itself nominated for a national business award. I'm pretty certain that I could have published my book through other channels; I could have paid to have it self-published, released it as an ebook, whatever. I'm also pretty sure the end-product wouldn't be half the quality of the finished 'Encore' that I and Jamie came out with. Where would the promotion have come from? The editing? The keen literary eye that turned my poems from random internet ramblings into a beautifully designed, coherent book? These are all aspects that writers cannot offer themselves. They require outside assistance and those within the publishing industry offer the best form of that assistance.
Horowitz acknowledged this, paying tribute to the contributions of his editors past and present and he actually read out a passage of self-published fiction to bring the to the attention of the audience the tiny oversights and repetitions that made it 'ploddy' rather than cutting and incisive. He notes, then that publishers help to raise the a for writers and the quality of their work. So Horowitz answers his own question in the end; He enjoys being part of the literary tradition that brings publisher and author together, and so do I. Again, though my experiences are thus far limited, it's definitely not a case of publisher v. author, as some camps might be chanting, including the Society of Authors. The fact that publishers are keen to focus on content, and design and all those fiddly bits that you get to bypass by self-publishing should be something to celebrate amongst writers.
If all publishers began to focus on just the money, as Horowitz concludes, they'd probably end up far better off, but where would that leave the readers who crave decent fiction, or poetry, or a cheeky bit of non-fiction? We'd be littered with more Dan Browns and Katie Prices and screen glare. The industry may be in flux, but I'm glad to be in the eye of the storm, and I'm glad to remain part of the long writer/publisher tradition.