ARE BOOKS DEAD?
Many of you will have already read the condensed version of Ewan Morrison’s talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival, which was published in The Guardian on Monday. If you haven’t, you should: it provides a bracingly unsentimental account of the difficulties facing publishing in general and authors in particular as the print economy transitions to digital. Central to Morrison’s argument is an assumption the transition to ebooks will be rapid, that the same pressures from piracy and consumer behaviour that have reshaped the economics of other industries will drive book prices down to levels which are incapable of supporting authors, and that this in turn will lead to the fairly rapid collapse of the economy of advances and royalties that has sustained professional writers.It’s unlikely to come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog that I largely agree with Morrison’s arguments.
REVALUING THE BOOK
I’m tremendously optimistic about the future of the book as an object. I think the worst years of the book as an object have been the last 50 years.
When I started at Soft Skull in 2001 we were printing on 55-pound paper. By 2005, we were typically printing on 50-pound paper. By 2008, half our books were on 45-pound groundwood. And that’s because our print runs were going down. And even with publishers whose print runs weren’t going down, they were trying to save money. Because when the book’s primary purpose was not to be an object, but rather to be a mass-produced item for sale in big-box retail, then there’s going to be downward pressure on costs. And so what we have witnessed over the last 50 years is the progressive shittification of the book as an object—a process that is not external to publishing as it was practiced over the last 100 years, but has in fact been at its fore.
Matt Runkle (Boston Review) interviews Richard Nash
A REVOLUTION FOR READERS
E-books have been around for decades, but only become easy to disseminate with the widespread availability of the Internet in the 1990s. However, another development was required to unlock their potential: a killer device, the Kindle. Once Amazon opened up their digital self-publishing platform, all the pieces were in place for writers to strike out on their own. But what has this meant for readers?
THE END IS NIGH
If Locke, whose print sales numbers are unproven and open to speculation, can demand to keep his erights, Stephen King and James Patterson will make the same demands. They're watching Locke, and Pottermore. If enough Big Authors follow suit, the Big 6 won't be able to recover.
Publishing can't survive. It just can't. It is no longer necessary.
BACK FROM THE DEAD: THE STATE OF BOOK REVIEWING
ive years ago, when Twitter was just another start-up and the iPad was a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, the state of print book reviews in this country was undergoing a spectacular and noisy collapse. Newspapers that were failing financially killed off their stand-alone print book sections, or folded them into the entertainment, ideas, or culture sections. They fired staff book editors and critics and cut freelance budgets. Hundreds of newspapers shut down altogether. Many magazines stopped covering books, and the literary quarterlies, for decades the champions of poetry and literary fiction published by independent presses, faced funding challenges as well.
Writers, readers, book reviewers, and publishing professionals feared the worst. Many equated the failure of the print-newspaper business model with the death of the book review.
INDIE PUBLISHING - A WIN/WIN FOR ALL CONCERNED?
It was announced yesterday. The headlines varied, but they were all a variation of the same theme – One more “Indie” writer signed a publishing contract. John Locke’s deal with Simon and Schuster made headlines and the writing and publishing community was all abuzz with excitement. Locke, who detailed his recent success in his aptly named ebook, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, not only signed a lucrative deal with S&S, he managed to do the seemingly impossible – he held on to his ebook rights.
SHOULD YOU SELF-PUBLISH - OR WAIT FOR A TRADITIONAL DEAL?
I get asked this question a lot by authors who are looking for a simple, cut-and-dried answer. But deciding which might be the right option for a particular author depends on a number of things.
Here are some questions to ask yourself...