This past Saturday night I went to the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to watch The Arcade Fire, and let me tell you, those crazy Canadians can sure put on a good show! In case you haven’t heard of the Arcade and the Fire that occurred there, they are a sort of orchestral indie rock band that exploded onto the scene with their debut album and then solidified their standing with the follow-up. If they come your way, I highly recommend that you check them out.
Anyway, BEA is over, and this just in from the participants: it was hot. Really hot.
Also at BEA: publishers, authors and booksellers wondering how new technology and our new robot overlords will affect the world of books. The New York Times, of course, was all over this.
From Camp “I love the taste of chrome in the morning” you have Chris Anderson, who is contemplating releasing his new book for free online (the book is conveniently titled FREE), only it will have advertisements inside. And from Camp “Die you robot scum” you have…. well, no one was willing to denigrate our robot overlords on the record for fear of retribution, but the Times article quotes some people who express a sense of inevitability and mild fear about the coming changes.
Now personally, although I joke about the publishing industry’s reluctance to embrace certain mind-boggling new technologies such as, uh, e-mailed query letters, I feel that the publishing industry often gets a bad rap for being left behind in a world of new technologies. To my eye, this isn’t the case. Publishers are investing lots of cold hard cash in new technology-based publishing initiatives to be ready for changes in the marketplace, but so far… things haven’t changed all that much. Sure, you have more online marketing, Internet piracy is becoming more of a problem, Amazon and other online vendors loom large, independents are struggling from competition from chains and the Internet, but the vast majority of books are still bought in stores, are published by the same publishers, are printed in paper and ink…. etc.
So the next time you see the publishing industry criticized for being unreceptive to technological change, or the next time you hear someone talk about a coming massive change in publishing that the industry is catastrophically unprepared for, think about how little has actually changed in the last 10 years. Sure, things are going to continue to evolve, and it’s possible that I’ll see something like a digital revolution during my publishing lifetime, but until people decide that they want to read on PDAs and screens than hold a book in their hands, things will continue to stay relatively the same.
It’s not that publishing is behind the technological curve. The industry is just giving people what they want.