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Predictions about the future of book publishing ( a roundup)

January 8, 2010

Tags: book publishing

"[T]his whole notion that trashy books subsidized quality books is, if it were ever true, certainly not true now," says Michael Nash in a Galley Cat interview. "In fact, publishers typically overbid for big trashy books, because they need volume, they need hits. In fact, the quality backlist is subsidizing the frontlist. And while they are still publishing midlist writers, because they do get that eventually it is those guys, not the trashy hits, that create the backlist, they actually allocate resources to the trashy books. Those midlist writers, though, are perfect for small enterprises to build with, since they often come with loyal readers."
There is much food for thought (and planning) in the following essays on and forecasts about the future of the book trade:

Richard Nash on Book Publishing 10 Years into the Future
(Galleycat 1-5-10) “In 2020 we will look back on the last days of publishing and realize that it was not a surfeit of capitalism that killed it, but rather an addiction to a mishmash of Industrial Revolution practices that killed it, including a Fordist any color so long as it is black attitude to packaging the product, a Sloanist hierarchical management approach to decision making, and a GM-esque continual rearranging of divisions like deck chairs on the Titanic based on internal management preferences rather than consumer preferences.”

Richard Nash on The End of Publishing As We Know It (Jeff Rivera, Galleycat 1-8-10 on reactions to Nash) “…publisher services businesses, will thrive in this environment since functionalities that would be called, with today's vocabulary, editorial, design and publicity, will best reside at the community level, whereas distribution-style functions have always best been handled by aggregators.”

Predictions 2010: Cloudy with a Chance of Alarm (Michael Cairns, Personanondata, 1-4-10), as well as Publishing Futurist . I’m bookmarking Michael Cairns’ Personanondata blog on publishing industry news, data, strategy. He writes: "Educational publishers appear to be increasing – rather than decreasing – their investment in electronic media and more importantly, are beginning to think of their electronic products as distinctly different from their print precursors. In particular, educational publishers have started to talk meaningfully about 'databases' and 'subscriptions.' "

2010 Predictions (Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog)
“The e-future of this industry is not quick-and-dirty p-to-e conversions. Pricing pressures and value propositions mean these will be nothing more than revenue rounding errors for the foreseeable future. 2010 will be the year where we'll see more investment in richer e-content products. I'm not talking about simply slapping some video into a book, btw. We'll see more digital-first initiatives where the print version, if there even is one, will be considered secondary. Start thinking about not just reading but overall entertainment. Think also about the capabilities of multi-function devices, not dedicated e-readers. More on that in a moment...”

Book business faces 'tectonic' shift in 2010 and beyond, part 1 Bookseller presents Gail Roebuck (Random House), Peter Field (Penguin) and Victoria Barnsley (HarperCollins).
Barnsley: "The day when we sold only hardbacks and paperbacks will be looked backed at with wonder."

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times (Bob Miller, Harper Studio, with trends and countertrends)
"As the initial sale becomes less of the focus for authors, the agent of the future will become more of a business manager who handles every aspect of an author’s career, overseeing the author’s online presence, developing sources of revenue outside of book sales such as workshops and lecture tours, and acting as the author’s publicist in between publications."

10 Things You Can Comfortably Ignore in 2010 David Worlock at DavidWorllock.com. For example: "All forecasts of a return of advertising levels, regardless of media or format, to 'normal,' 'pre-recession levels' or equivalent values. It is not going to happen."

And finally, a super roundup of links predictions, including those above and more:
Predictions (Dan Flagstaff’s excellent roundup of links to predictions about the book business, with excellent quotations, 1-8-10). He suggests we examine who is saying what, with what possible agenda. Another site to bookmark: The Casual Optimist , a blog about the book trade and all things book related.

Thanks to Lynn Wasnak for the lead!