Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
As I get back into the swing of things, I have been catching up on some recent publishing news as well as a few things I wanted to discuss in April. Sorry if I’m a bit late to the game and these topics have been talked to death.
There have been rumblings in the publishing hinterverse that e-books sales are slowing and that maybe this crazy e-book bubble has burst. Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking, but Nathan Bransford took a look at the numbers by using stats from the AAP.
Just a small interpretation of the graph: If the e-book bubble had burst (assuming that there is a bubble, you know, that this think isn’t going to stick around as the new status quo), then the data would follow the logarithmic line. So this graph tells me that the e-books are still not a mature market that is tapering off. I’m not quite dead yet!
I really enjoyed this article by Evan Hughes over at Wired where he discussed the book publishing industry and how legacy publishers are “scrambling to rewrite their future.” In the last quarter of his article, Hughes mentions a word that has me giggling with glee.
In the long term, what publishers have to fear the most may not be Amazon but an idea it has helped engender—that the only truly necessary players in the game are the author and the reader. “I was at a meeting God knows how many years ago at MIT,” former Random House chief Epstein says, “and someone used the word disintermediation. When I deconstructed that, I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the end of the publishing business.’ ” At a time when a writer can post a novel online and watch the revenue pour in by direct deposit, the publishing industry’s skill at making books, selling them by hand to bookstores, and managing the distribution of the product threatens to become irrelevant. In Epstein’s vision, the writer may need a freelance editor, a publicist, and an agent who functions as a kind of business manager, but authors will keep a bigger share of the proceeds with no lumbering media corporation standing in the way.
The Internet has been the great equalizer. It has taken away the distribution power from the legacy publishers and put it in the hands of the authors themselves. Is self-publishing hard work? Sure, but so is weeding Mr. McGregor’s garden. Does self-publishing encompass a skill set that some of us are lacking? Sure, but I can Google up plenty of experts and advise when I need it.
Back in April, James Patterson, NYT bestselling author of thriller novels, ran an advertisement in the New York Times calling for support of legacy publishers. I guess when you make 97 million dollars a year, you can do that kind of thing (and if you think the only way to keep making 97 million is to keep around the guys that helped you make that money in the first place). I certainly don’t begrudge Patterson his success; he’s good at what he does.
However, I cannot support a system that is not in the customers’ (readers) best interest and also takes advantage of the craftsmen (authors) providing the products for the marketplace. The legacy publishers are merely distributors, yet they want to keep the majority of the profits. They are not tastemakers; don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Back to Patterson’s advertisement, Joe Konrath had a great post about it here, and I agree with many of his points.
James Patterson gave an interview to Salon Magazine where he speaks out about his aggressive “book industry bailout” ads. What are his suggestions for saving the legacy publishing industry? Get kids to read. Tax breaks for publishers. Limitations on monopolies. Consider laws for what should or shouldn’t be done on the Internet. Give out books. Give out coupons to kids so they can buy books.
Yeah, I don’t really think any of that stuff is going to work. Do you?
“If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?”
I think that we’ve been finding each other on the Internet just fine, thank you very much. I’m sure we’ll get around to writing the important books as soon as we stop having so much damn fun. And in the words of Philip J. Fry, “Don’t you worry about BOOKS. You let us worry about BOOKS.”