The Future of Publishing

I saw a link to this article on the Blog Fiction Forums and was intrigued:

The End

The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.

Well, hallelujah. I’m not a lone nutcase trumpeting crackpot theories. I have nutcase allies!

In case I’m not making sense (and you’re not in the mood to read 10 pages of a New Yorker mag article), my basic theory is that the days of the paper-published book are numbered. Sure, they’ll be produced for hundreds of years yet – in a small way, as curiosities and collectables. But I don’t think that paper-publishing will stay the standard for dissemination of ideas and the written word. I think that stories, novels and articles will be, more and more, published primarily in an electronic format… of some description. I don’t think it takes genius to work out that it’s a likely scenario, mind you. Just look at the trends and follow them to a moderately logical conclusion.

Why am I rabbiting on about this? Why does it interest me? Easy. A couple of years ago I decided to deliberately avoid even attempting the paper-publishing route that most writers try to follow. I don’t submit my articles and stories to magazines, newspapers or book publishers. And part of it is probably cowardice – simple fear of rejection. But a big part of it is a belief in the concept of electronic ‘publishing’ … and a desire to put all my energy into backing the right horse.

If no-one’s heard of me in 50 years time… ummm… whoops?

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9 Responses

  1. i think publishing houses need to change the way they do business or thy will go the way of the dodo but i dont think theyll every totally die out.

    personally i prefer reading a book to reading a novel through say one of those book reader contraptions or via audio book, theres just something i really enjoy about making up the characters voices and situations in my head

  2. Yeah, I think there’ll always be paper books!

    So do you mean you prefer paper books to an electronic-paper type contraption with a similar ‘feel’ for your eyes? Because that was always my beef with the concept of ebooks – I don’t like reading much from an LCD screen. But the electronic paper is apparently very good (no actual experience here) in comparison with paper.

  3. I’ve been thinking the same thing for a few years, too, Naomi.
    To survive the publishing houses are going to have to change their whole format and set up, with the writers now holding the power and calling the shots.

  4. I think this is a horror story – possibly true, but a horror story nonetheless.

    Nothing can replace a real book for me, and I think what is happening is that people are consuming more junk writing the same way they are consuming more junk food. Not because the publishing industry is so skilled at being the arbiters of taste for everyone, but because it becomes too easy to add to the noise.

    That said, I’m certainly not propping up the publishing industry, because books have become virtually unaffordable for the average person, as they once were. I used to be completely up to date with current fiction, but now it is mostly classics (and “modern” classics) from the 2nd hand book store.

    Maybe I seem antiquated thinking $20 dollars is a lot, but I remember as a kid, my parents bought us 2 new books a week. I can’t imagine many families would be doing that these days.

    (I should have just written a blog post. 🙂 )

  5. Jayne – yeah, it’s an interesting change to the playing field.

    Cerebralmum – no comment is too long here, unless it kills my blog. Then the commenter is in BIG trouble 🙂 I’m in a similar situation – very few full-price new books make it into my house. So, that combined with the whole waste factor involved in publishing has reconciled me somewhat to the idea of ebooks. Because there’s some really good stuff out there on the net, and it’s a helluva lot cheaper.

  6. Interesting… I enjoy writing, and have wondered if this is the future for the written word. I also tend to agree with Cerebralmum – I really enjoy my books – and dread the day when they’ll no longer be the norm! Audio books certainly make things so much easier for me on long drives up north, and when I catch public transport – but I love the feel and smell of books, as weird as that might sound… I’ve not looked into ebooks…perhaps I should eh! I’ll really miss good old fashioned books not being a part of my kids life, the way it was mine… but hey – who knows what change will breing eh?!

    Cheers 😉

  7. Belongum – funny how people are different, eh – I’ve never ever liked audio books, no matter how long the car or bus or train trip. Ebooks are profilerating quite madly these days! 🙂

  8. Naomi,

    Try reading Great Expectations on a desktop computer or a Kindle and then please revisit this topic. I agree with you the the move to “all things digital” is impacting the book business, but feel that there are several differentiating factors there represent an essential difference: almost no one is unhappy with the look and feel of books. By that measure, electronic books are a technological solution in search of an answer.

    Sure, dictionaries are more easily accessed online, as arguably are newspapers and many magazines. But as far as I can see the only real advantage of eBooks is you can carry 200 of them for the same weight as one. But can you read 200 on that train trip?

    I cover this in far more detail here: http://www.thefutureofpublishing.com/industries/the_future_of_ebooks_econtent.html.

  9. Thad – thanks for commenting, and the link! Definitely food for thought.

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