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True, the printed book is a physical object, but the digital revolution made publishers increasingly conscious of the fact that their assets comprised not just their warehouses full of books but also the content that was realized in those books. It was the content, and the control of the copyrights that governed what they could do with that content, which was in some respects their key asset, not the books themselves. Of course, the physical books were not insignificant – they were, after all, the principal means by which publishers' content was realized and exchanged in the marketplace, and therefore the principal source of revenue.

The idea of the gatekeeper suggests that there are authors queuing up to get through the gate, and the gatekeeper's job is to decide who can go through and who will be turned away. This model may have been a reasonably accurate reflection of what happened in some sectors of the publishing industry some decades ago, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to the role of an editor in most publishing firms today. Of course, there is a certain amount of this activity of selection – every publishing firm is flooded with unsolicited proposals and manuscripts from would-be authors and from agents, and many editors do spend some time wading through the pool.

But even in those sectors of the industry where the role of the editor might have looked something like that of a gatekeeper twenty or thirty years ago, such as the world of the university presses, this is less and less the case. Today editors know that their jobs depend more and more on their ability to sign up the kinds of authors and books that will do well, and to do so in the face of growing competition from other editors who would love to sign up the same authors and books. The idea that they could simply stand by the gate and decide which of the queuing projects would be allowed to pass through bears less and less resemblance to the increasingly pressurized and competitive world in which most editors work today.

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