2008 will be remembered as the year the future caught up with the publishing industry. For a long time we’ve been hearing rumblings about how publishers needed to reorganize, how bookstores couldn’t survive, how technology would impact the industry, and how e-books would shake everything up. And yet for much of the 00’s, change always seemed to be on the horizon, never quite materializing.
Well, the future arrived, and I think I have whiplash.
We’re moving to a model with a disappearing midlist and a series of big bets, fewer brick and mortar bookstores, an exploding number of self- and indie-published books, two dynamic e-readers, and massive advances for celebrities and perennial bestsellers. Books are now competing not just with movies and television, but with a rapidly evolving Internet that now includes blogs, news, and puppy cams.
So now we’re left with a lot of questions for ’09:
– Will the bestsellers of tomorrow be like THE SHACK — self-published and driven by word of mouth?
– Will Borders survive? And in what form?
– Will publishers regret tying their fates to so few titles?
– Will e-readers become commonplace?
– Will the Internet change reading habits?
It’s a challenging time for the business, and yet when the dust clears next year it will be even more apparent: people are still buying books. Even with all the turmoil the industry has endured, as of October book sales this year were UP over 2007. Up!! Let’s repeat that with caps: UP!! How people are buying books is changing, what types of books they’re buying is changing, who’s publishing them is changing, but people are still buying them, and they still want good ones.
So it’s a tough time, the layoffs hurt, and the future is uncertain. But books are still books.
Now then. Over the next couple of weeks I will not be blogging regularly, but I will be configuring the old Blogger to post reruns I mean greatest hits. It will be like I never left.
Wondering what the world would look like if Borders goes bankrupt? If so, you have something in common with 100% of the publishing industry. Jenny Rappaport digs into some of the different ways a Borders bankruptcy could unfold.
Macmillan is embarking on the creation of a children’s group, which will bring its imprints together under one umbrella. They also announced, unfortunately, that they are eliminating 64 positions.
Moonrat provided some terrific insight into the various elements that go into a decision about hardcover vs. paperback original. She later returned to report that they’re going with hardcover, and here’s why.
This week’s “What’s Wrong With Publishing” article is brought to you by author Lawrence Osbourne, who cites an adherence to “dumb” books like THE DA VINCI CODE (which he calls “execrable twaddle”) as part of the reason for publishing’s economic malaise. He also says that authors like Roberto Bolano and JM Coetzee wouldn’t have been published in the US if they didn’t first succeed in their home countries.
In completely totally unrelated news, genre fiction sales are up! How about that.
Your debate du jour: are the Newbery winning books too challenging? Related: are we becoming lazy readers? Related: what were we talking about again?
And finally, via the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog, Harper’s Fourth Estate celebrated its 25th anniversary by producing this completely spectacular and addicting stop-motion animation short made out of book covers:
Happy Holidays, everyone! See you in ’09!