Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Publishing Death Watch"?

That sounds kinda ominous. It's not so bad, though. Just a small piece in The New Yorker that looks at a few different quotes about the current state of publishing. Really just seems a bit inconclusive, and the Hachette statement about a book selling forty-thousand copies being a "disaster" for them seems a bit hard to credit...

It's here, if you're interested.

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Blogger Shawn C. Speakman said...

Eh, every other decade or so the publishing industry has a tumultuous time usually attached to a US recession. Everything will be fine. Companies will reorganize, they will become a bit more picky what they publish, but at the end of the day all will be well.

It will undoubtedly hurt those mid-list authors writing right now. That's the sad part. New writers will get contracts, the bestselling writers will get their contracts, but those people in the middle without strong enough sales who have been given a shot will be hurt. Sad.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

I like how the first paragraph basically predicts that the Amazon Kindle will be the end of books.

I know a few people with a Kindle, so I've had the opportunity to check it out. It is a cool little device, easy to read and easy enough to decide to purchase.

Sony has a version of this out, I'm not sure I like it as much.

However - there's one common trait among all the people I know who have a Kindle (or Sony's offering): They still purchase hard copy books.

Why? Well, according to one of the girls in my office who loves her Kindle ("It's the best thing I've ever bought!"): She still likes the art of the book.

What's the "art" of the book?

It's not cover art. It's the texture of the page, the font type cast, the smell of paper in a bookstore; the beauty and excitement of turning a page and seeing what's next, like some hidden treasure that sits on your desk and beckons you to finish reading it. Or to re-read it.

Most of the people I've talked to feel this way. Sure, they'll buy the kindle edition of the book if it was something that they "would pick up later in paperback".

Heck, some people I know have bought the kindle edition and the HB edition of some of their most anticipated reads so that they have the "joy of owning the book" but also don't have to lug it around on the bus (Pat Rothfuss I'm looking at you).

So, while we are in a recession, people are going to spend less on things - including books. Sure. But I don't think publishing is at an end. Far from it. Shawn brings brings up a great point and I agree - everything will be fine.

But, maybe what those mid-list authors lose in hard sales they can make up for on the internet and kindle sales.

You never know, necessity breeds invention. Five years ago would you believe that authors today would have such interactions with their fan base such as blogs/website/e-interviews? These are powerful mediums, and creates word of mouth support.

And that can be powerful too.

1:37 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Howdy. I agree that these publishing problems are just a part of an oft repeated cycle. I also agree that the industry will use it (hopefully) to adjust to a variety of changes and emerge stronger on the other end. I also believe that the touchy-feely books will always have a place and will always mean something to readers. (I listen to a lot of stuff on audio, but if I like it I still by the book.)

The only small thing I'd take with, Shawn, is your use of "Eh" at the beginning of your comment. And that's because working in publishing for the last (almost) ten years I know that all these cutbacks and mergers mean that real people are loosing their jobs. Not just writers, but editors and publicists and various assistants that do the work to get books from manuscripts to the bookstores.

I know more than one editor that has been told on a Tuesday that they were fired, and had to call all their writers and inform them fast, because they'd have to leave their desk on Thursday. Many of these people have spent years working to build their careers, and many of them wanted nothing more than to continue to connect books with readers, AND all of them - that I know - didn't loose their jobs because of negligence or incompetence. They lost them because of the type of corporate restructuring that is happening on a large scale right now.

Yes, the industry will be fine. I think I'll be fine, but many good people are having their lives altered. That's something I have to look at somberly.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incubus Jax said: It's not cover art. It's the texture of the page, the font type cast, the smell of paper in a bookstore; the beauty and excitement of turning a page and seeing what's next, like some hidden treasure that sits on your desk and beckons you to finish reading it. Or to re-read it.

I couldn't have said it better. I don't care how many Kindles or other readers attempt to take over the world and establish One Reading Order, I'll always be lugging a printed book under my arm.

4:40 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Good. Fight the good fight. We're all better off for it...

2:17 PM  
Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

It's cold in Seattle (which is something we're only 'kind of' used to) so maybe Shawn's 'Eh' is just phlegm. :)

Anyway, don't get me wrong, anytime people are losing their jobs it's a bad thing - I know several people who are losing out this Christmas (my company just cut half it's workers).

On a side note, if you'd like to see a real life shame, Seattle Mayor Greg Nichols is asking the city to give his top 3 men over 20% pay increases. These people already make more than $150k annual (indeed one of them makes over $220k).

While the council is already refusing to even consider the request it simply goes to show how "out of touch" some of our leaders can be.

And not just in government. Word on the street not too long ago was about how the "big 3" were all flying to DC to beg for money on their private jets.

Someone warned me years ago that the middle class was dying out in America. That if we continued down the path we were own soon there would only be rich people and poor people. I've never been a doomsayer, but I will say this: don't give up.

And to those people who are getting the shaft in this wonderful economy - Stay positive.

Easy words in a difficult time, sure, but they've helped me through some really rough patches before.

6:52 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I'll be in a chilly place very soon myself. Actually, sounds like the cottage at Muckle Bousta has been filled with sick Durhams. Could be that I'll be clearing the phlegm from my throat pretty soon also...

I didn't mean to sound cranky - certainly not to Shawn, by the way, who is all good. Really, it's just that I've been thinking about a good friend of mine that was an editor. When she lost her job - not in this round, but a few years ago - it really derailed the way she saw her life going. It was - and still is - a big deal. I can only imagine that the same sort of thing is playing out for lots of people right now.

Here's to a new year and a new president to help us get this thing moving again...

10:46 PM  

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