Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today's Literary News (AKA My Dystopian Thursday Morning)

The Tweets just kept coming today, one thunder crack after another signaling doom and gloom for the publishing industry. It was like peering through Twitter's looking glass and seeing into the Big 6's dystopian future.

First there was this:

From @GalleyCat
Adult mass paperback sales plunged 54 percent in September while eBook sales rose 100 percent:
I've been anticipating numbers like that, but it's still surprising to see them in print.

And then there was this spooky bit:
By 2016, e-book revenues from portable devices will reach nearly $10 billion and bookstores that don’t merge digital and traditional commerce may face extinction

Now I'm imagining the pages of old books blowing through empty strip mall parking lots.

And finally, there was this piece of holiday joy: How many Christmases until we see a whole new industry?

Which is neatly summarized by these two quotes:
John Makinson, the global CEO of Penguin, was quoted in a Reuters article saying that the post-Christmas period in publishing coming up is “tougher to predict” than “any time that I can remember”. Asked what he sees in the immediate future, Makinson replied “dark clouds.”

The pace of the digital switchover is quickening. That will reduce the cash available to invest in building a new ecosystem at the same time the urgency of coming up with new answers is rising. It’s enough to make a sober executive, even at a very large, successful, smart, and innovative company, admit to serious concern for the industry’s future 

But in good Hollywood fashion, we'll end with a ray of hope striking out from deep within the gloom:
IndieBound Reader is an ebook reading application [... that] allows book lovers to read ebooks purchased at their local, independent bookstores.

Thank goodness, right? I've been wondering how much longer it would be before the independents began to get their act together.

Oh, and an interesting closing note: The Bookcase in Wayzata (a real nice bookstore, BTW) is where Claudia and I went to see Leanna Renee Hieber, Friend of The Scribblerati.

Aren't you glad I shared?


Mark Teats said...

Yes, yes I am (on the sharing part). Nice post.

In the meantime I continue to hoard "real" books (made of paper, bound, sometimes autographed) and find myself purchasing more. With the holiday season coming up I've even bought a few books as gifts--but so far no eBooks. They're hard to wrap and just don't look very exciting under the Christmas tree.

I guess the part I wonder about is in the end as a writer (and this is probably why you think about this too, Shawn) is do I win or lose if someone buys my book in electronic vs. paper form? From a "my work is being distributed and read" I think it's a win either way for us writers. From the perspective of "how do I reach the biggest audience?" or "how do I make money?" that seems to be the cloudy area that is yet to be determined.

And speaking of seeing future dark clouds:

Shawn Enderlin said...

Setting aside the emotional connection we all have to holding a book in our hand, you are correct. A sale is a sale is a sale and who cares what the format is as long as people are buying, right?

The question is going to come down to who will offer us the best combination of royalties and services and that is far from decided.

There's a groundswell of new options just beginning to emerge. There are a lot of new players in the field who are beginning to do some really interesting things that would be good for everyone (authors, agents, publishers).

The Big 6 are also making changes, most of which are still nascent at this point, but there are some new offerings out there. Some of those have benefited publishers at the expense of authors (e.g. Book Country's recent offerings) but I'm sure we'll see good stuff too - given time.

FYI - I've been linking to a number of articles on The Scribblerati's Google+ stream, so if you want to stay on top all these changes that's a good place to start.

PS - My brain tells me he's no good for me, but my heart still thinks he's cute - LOL