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Publishing Note: The Next Big Thing in Publishing?: Human Ingenuity


All eyes seem riveted to developments in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), mine included. In fact, I recently wrote about how AI may (or will) dramatically change the future of book publishing. Kudos to AI, let’s give the technology its moment in the sun, and if we’re honest about it, the moment may last for quite some time. AI is the present big thing. As so often happens when one event attracts the attention of the entire crowd, everyone overlooks some other event. So, what’s the next big thing?

Might we consider human ingenuity (HI) the next big thing? The case for HI is strong and has a wide foundation. If we think about it, AI is merely an embodiment of HI. That is, humans created AI to solve problems we couldn’t solve by human agency alone; we needed assistance from computers. Furthermore, HI applies to a far wider range of human experience than AI.

When applied to the book publishing industry, HI is practically inseparable from publishing books. Here, I use “practically” in its literal sense of it being impractical if not impossible to distinguish what is human ingenuity from what isn’t throughout all sectors of the industry. For example, human ingenuity contributes to an author being able to write a manuscript. HI is at the heart of imagining a story, or creating a business book, or recounting a memoir. Even allowing for a role for AI in content creation, going so far as to imagine a book fully written by AI, to my knowledge, generative AI responds to a human prompt. “Write a story with these types of characters and this plot…” Moreover, the capability of AI machines to write anything is based on humans scanning massive amounts of textual content created by humans into huge data storage devices. AI depends on HI.

What’s most exciting to me about HI is that each new generation of people will develop and apply human ingenuity in their own way, presumably in ways never before imagined. If you are human, built into your DNA is the potential for ingenuity. Whether you exercise that part of your innate capabilities is up to you. What form your HI might take becomes part of the kaleidoscopic unfolding life you live.

Think of all the different tasks and roles that make up the publishing industry.

Management and Administration

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Human Resources
  • Royalties
  • Legal Contracts
  • Purchasing
  • Permissions
  • Promotion
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Publicity
  • Conference management

Editorial and Content Creation

  • Content creation
  • Ghostwriting
  • Book coaching
  • Developmental editing
  • Substantive editing
  • Copyediting
  • Technical editing
  • Proofreading
  • Translation
  • Indexing
  • Fact checking
  • Managing Editorial

Design and Production

  • Art and design direction
  • Project management
  • Cover design
  • Interior design
  • Typesetting
  • Ebook creation
  • Audiobook narration
  • Audiobook production
  • Audiobook sales
  • Audiobook distribution
  • Graphic illustration
  • Book packaging


  • Literary agenting
  • Subsidiary rights representation
  • Author development


  • Information technology
  • Internet development
  • Web creation
  • XML standards
  • Publishing technology development, implementation, and support
  • Accessibility

Sales and Distribution

  • Wholesale sales
  • Retail sales
  • Booksellers
  • Special sales
  • Warehousing
  • Shipping and logistics

Printing and Manufacturing

  • Book manufacturing
  • Print buying
  • Materials acquisition
  • Printing technology
  • Printing press manufacturing, maintenance, and repair
  • Bindery operations

Now consider all the unique ways people filling these roles use human ingenuity to do their job. The possibilities are endless.

Here are a few takeaways about human ingenuity.

  • HI is a starting point, not an intermediary step on the way to some desired outcome.
  • HI has a long history; in fact, it has been around from the start of human history.
  • HI, by dint of the fact that it derives from humans, is a renewable resource.
  • HI is responsive to an ever-changing landscape (physical, environmental, social, intellectual, etc.).

In an age when we uncritically equate newer with better, we might discover a pleasant surprise in the very old—HI— being the next big thing.