the end of book publishing

Before you switch off from another doomsaying prophesy, this is actually quite an interesting article from New York Magazine:

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

The demise of publishing has been predicted since the days of Gutenberg. But for most of the past century—through wars and depressions—the business of books has jogged along at a steady pace. It’s one of the main (some would say only) advantages of working in a “mature” industry: no unsustainable highs, no devastating lows. A stoic calm, peppered with a bit of gallows humor, prevailed in the industry.
Survey New York’s oldest culture industry this season, however, and you won’t find many stoics. What you will find are prophets of doom, Cassandras in blazers and black dresses arguing at elegant lunches over What Is to Be Done. Even best-selling publishers and agents fresh from seven-figure deals worry about what’s coming next. Two, five years from now—who knows? Life moves fast in the waning era of print; publishing doesn’t.

Continue reading at: http://nymag.com/news/media/50279/
On a more positive note, here is one of the videos referred to earlier in the piece – staff at new imprint HarperStudio holding aloft yellow lightbulbs and having some bright ideas about book publishing:

We need a bit of yellow lightbulb thinking, rather than bemoaning the fate of publishing. Why not slash those absurd advances and offer 50% royalties instead – a model HarperStudio are experimenting with.
Like the Cult of Skaro, we need to break out of old ways of thinking, think the unthinkable, and evolve into something else. Bright Ideas on a postcard please.

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...

3 thoughts on “the end of book publishing

  • 23rd September 2008 at 5:07 am
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    I agree that book publishing is going through a transformation. But compared to what’s happening in newspaper publishing and magazine publishing it’s a blip on the map. Overall sales figures remain strong, as you’ll see on my website http://www.thefutureofpublishing.com. It’s very easy to join the chorus of naysayers; it makes for better copy. But change is gradual, particularly in a medium like book publishing, and to declare it’s imminent death is, I think, far too simple a cry.

  • 23rd September 2008 at 1:29 am
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    I’ve been reading all of the responses out there to the NY Mag article and I’m so relieved to find out that I’m not the ONLY one who’s optimistic (and excited) about the future of book publishing. Thanks for speaking up. And p.s. I’m the one who made that yellow lightbulb video….and I have tons more footage of people talking about their “bright ideas.” We have a jar full of lightbulbs when you walk into our lobby on the 26th floor. Starring the Lightbulb: http://flickr.com/iconbuilder/select.gne

  • 22nd September 2008 at 10:13 pm
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    It’s hard to be against anything that might keep books viable during a time when whispers about the demise of books seem to be turning into shouts. But I think it’s also time, more than ever, to remind authors–especially the self-publishing author–that they need to get it right.
    From conceptualizing, researching, and writing well, to making sure the cover look professionally designed to invite in potential readers, to interior design and layout that makes it easy for readers to stick through till the end, quality must rule.
    That’s what I try to discuss on my blog. Please have a look.

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