I spend a fair amount of my evening time searching for and studying new publishing models, most of which are unfortunately not being created by traditional publishers. Bill Burger of the Copyright Clearance Center talked about some excellent sites that we as publishers should be studying. They are:
Wikitravel: Though there are a plethora of travel sites available, this one is built on the very successful Wikipedia model. And now users can purchase a book through it, no traditional publisher involved.
Encyclopedia of Life: A dense and gorgeous site that comes to us without the involvement of a traditional publisher.
Sermo.com: A members-only site for doctors in the Boston area that publishes medical information, without the involvement of a traditional publisher.
I could add a bunch more to this list–Knol, 101 Cookbook, Baby Center–but the trend is clear, and if publishers aren’t willing to participate in this new world, really participate, then alternatives will be created.