Saturday, September 20, 2008

The future of book publishing

In 2006, Forbes magazine predicted the death of books, to paraphrase Mark Twain, was greatly exaggerated. According to its research, people were reading more, not less.
This bears out in 2008 as well. But in what format will they survive?
In June, Publishers Weekly reported that electronic stories have boosted readership and sales. It specifically mentioned Wild Rose Press, where I have several stories due out soon, as having more success rather than less.
Apparently New York Magazine thinks the bell is already tolling for traditional publishing, as it describes in its article, The End.
But is e-publishing a good deal for authors? An article in Conde Nast’s Portfolio called Engineering the Risk out of Book Publishing explains the idea behind HarperCollins’ new unit, HarperStudio. Not having had a book published (yet!), I have no frame of reference so can’t render any personal pearls of wisdom, but merely pass on what others have said. For instance, author L.J. Sellers sees it as a positive move. Her blog even caught the attention of a HarperCollins exec, who rebutted another’s comment that the move would cheat authors, saying HarperStudios still allows up to $100,000 in advances and pays fifty percent of the net profits.
Delivery systems such as Sony’s E-Reader and Amazon’s Kindle have made e-books portable, further boosting their appeal. And not just for erotica, as Publishers Weekly seems to think.
It certainly seems as if e-books will be a serious competitor, if not overtake, traditional publishing. The Telegraph UK’s 2007 article, Electronic books the future of publishing, states that the Booker Prize Foundation intended to release ebook versions of the shortlisted book titles, though it laments that (as of Oct. 2007) ebook readers had not yet become available in the UK.
In Galleycat’s blog, author Bill Tancer has some intriguing ideas about what data culled from the Internet might reveal to publishers (watch the video).
I’m no expert, but I think nothing can be ruled out, at this point. If readers want more interactive content, as Tancer says, then there are many more avenues for publishers – and authors – to pursue. Some of which are already done today, such as books being remade into video games. So who knows where it will all end up? Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Hi Cate. Thanks for continuing the diaglogue about the future of book publishing. I am optimistic myself about what the future holds and think that the new technology only makes it more fun and creative and gives us more opportunities. We just have to change the way we are doing things....and change makes some people nervous (not me!) In my opinion, that's not "The End," -- it's "The Future."

Thad McIlroy said...

I agree broadly that "e-books will be a serious competitor" to traditional book publishing (although I'd rather assume that one might consider e-books a complimentary to traditional book publishing), I fail to see any evidence that you've proffer, other than from hyperbolic third-party sources, that they might "overtake traditional publishing."

Cate Masters said...

Thanks, Debbie and Thad! No, I'm no expert, as I said. But trends seem to indicate a major shift is in the works, between e-publishing, podcasts, and the like. I believe the publishing industry is evolving, and will continue to evolve in ways that will surprise us. So, time will tell!