There has never been a better time to be a writer and a publisher. We are blessed with more good books than ever before. There are more ways to profit from books than ever before, and more than three billion people in the global mobile village who are potential readers. But collaboration among the various members of the book industry is as essential to reaching a wider audience as innovation. Below are four suggestions about how publishing people may be able to work together to give book sales a boost.

1. Start a Nonprofit Amazon

Like Google, Amazon is proving that putting our literary heritage at the mercy of a corporation will be a disaster that will undermine the First Amendment and harm the world’s reading and writing culture. Jeff Bezos predicted Amazon will be disrupted by the next e-commerce revolution. Here’s how to revolt: start a nonprofit cooperative that allows traditional and independent publishers to list their books, provide information about them, and fulfill orders. They would pay fees, based on sales, to participate. This approach can also be used for a subscription service. Bezos expects Amazon to be disrupted. Why make him wait?

2. Be Transparent with Authors

Technology is turning the publishing pyramid upside down. Readers are becoming the critics and curators. Goodreads and other social media outlets are making books succeed without the blessing of the Big Apple Five, big media, and big bookstores. To thrive in this disruption, publishers have to reinvent themselves as their authors’ partners. Among the steps publishers can take to become partners are

a. helping authors both write and sell books;

b. sharing information about their costs, and leveling with authors about the houses’ goals for their books and how they will achieve them;

c. giving authors access to the latest sales information for their titles, like Amazon does;

d. sharing at least half of the profits from sales of the authors’ books with them and providing information on costs that explain the split;

e. paying authors more quickly.

3. Enlarge the Community of Independent Booksellers

The disruption of superstores gives trade publishers and the American Booksellers Association the chance to partner with cities around the country to start independent bookstores that thrive using the models that work best in their communities, including co-ops, a combination of businesses, and community-supported nonprofits. Publishers and the ABA could also partner with the manufacturer of Espresso Book Machines to ensure that all stores have them. In addition, new stores could participate in buy-indie campaigns to accelerate the trend of buying local and promote the fact that 68¢ of every dollar spent in a chain store leaves the community, whereas only 43¢ spent in indies leaves the community.

In order for this plan to work, participants would need to find local booksellers to manage stores and communities willing to help provide the resources to start them.

4. Start a Literary MoveOn

Millions of readers, writers, publishers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, subsidiary-rights buyers, and event organizers love books. But collectively, people who care about reading and books have little impact on what happens to readers, writers, publishers, booksellers, and libraries. People who care about the future of books need a (the URL is for sale)—a literary equivalent of MoveOn; a forum for communicating and taking action on issues affecting books and publishing.

For example, more than 50,000 desperate, amazingly brave potential young readers have recently struggled to reach this side of the Rio Grande from their homes in Central America and need all kinds of new and used books. At, people could discuss how to help these children by mobilizing a drive for books, volunteers, and other resources. could also help address other book-related issues, such as censorship.

Once the book community embraces collaboration, other ideas will emerge. A national book festival televised on C-Span? A national writing contest? National celebrations of authors’ birthdays? A national reading group?

More than ever, we need books that help us face the challenges confronting us; authors who share their passion for the value of their work; and publishers who do justice to their books. The editor of McClure’s, an early-20th-century muckraking magazine, wrote, “There is no one left but all of us.” Books need all the help we can give them, and if people who love books don’t provide it, who will?