Interesting story about what ebook readers are doing to the trade/mass paperback publishing industry. Interesting.
The article says, "For the traditional book publishing industry, the implications of the rise of the e-book and e-book reader markets are frightening, given the decline in paper book printing, distribution and sales," but I don't really get it. Paper book printing and distribution are costs for the publisher, not revenue. Eliminating those costs would seem to help publishers - remember publishers pay to ship books to bookstores and then pay again to have unsold books returned and then pay to pulp them.
The article seems to confuse self-published e-books with publisher-published e-books. If the decline in paper book sales from publishers is matched by an increase in e-book sales from publishers then there's no effect at all, really.
I agree that the article seems to confound the term revenue with at least three different terms: profit, gross profit, and industry value. The problem is that publishing houses have an antiquated business model and are defending it to the death. Instead of embracing a new method of selling books, they are pretending it is a threat. I also like how the decline in sales is being blamed on ebooks. Book sales have been in trouble for a fair while. You know there is a problem when James Paterson releases 12 books in a year rather than one book and 11 other guys/gals.
The music industry did the same. They sat around for years pretending that mp3s weren't happening, then they sued people, then they finally had a store to buy them from. They missed the boat by a decade. Plus they tried to blame mp3s for much more than was really possible to lay at their feet. The 90's was a boom CD sale time, as people upgraded their collection of music, disposable income increased for adolescents and indie bands found an audience. I commented upon how that lead to piracy on my blog:
At least this time around the indie and self-pub authors can take advantage of the new market place.
Yes, I found it confusing also. The biggest problem facing publishers is the mass exodus of authors. As soon as they realize that they can make a lot more money off e-book sales than through the publisher, they'll retain electronic rights. If necessary, they'll self-publish the print version.
The big problem that remains is how readers will separate the good from the bad. They've relied on the gatekeepers in the past. Predictably, reviewers will continue to stay with traditionally published books, as will awards committees. But there are few newspaper reviewers left, and the awards thing has always been a matter of luck.
Good points, I.J.
Of course, we'll never have a definition of "good" when it comes to creative endeavors. But we'll probably see a lot more sophisticated, "If you like this then you might like this" software which will narrow down the selections but it is going to be tough to find anything outside the mainstream.
Right now it feels like there's an over-supply of the same kind of books. I look at the self-published mysteries at Amazon and Smashwords and what I see are a lot of similar kinds of books - they all want to be bestsellers so they all look a lot like current bestsellers. Just, as you say, without the PR money behind them.
Great point, John! I've noticed that about a lot of Kindle authors too. The main reason some of them say they self-published is because publishers only wanted the "same old stuff". But now SP authors are doing the exact same thing they say they dislike about publishing houses. They are now writing to trend the same way they accused pubs of only wanting trends? So it's a practice what you preach kind of thing to me. If you write these books because you sincerely want to, fine. But don't say you hate pubs or wanna go on your own because a publisher is doing something yet then you start self-publishing only books you feel are popular so you can "sell". It's hypocritical. Why don't people realize, no matter how they are published is that there is nothing you can do to make a book a hit. It is either gonna catch on or it's not.
But I am so glad you brought that point up, John. And I'm not picking on self-published authors but a lot of them sprout off stuff claiming their work is SO different from anything else out there or they are so unique so that's why they couldn't get a publisher or agent but you see that their work isn't really that different. Writing to trend is writing to trend no matter how you're published. Now I'm not saying it's wrong to write to trend if that's the kind of author you wanna be, but just call it what it is and don't act like you're doing something better than a publishing house or a commercially published author would. But anyone who writes to trend should realize that trends don't last forever. You can't write everything just to fit in. It's more than obvious when folks are jumping on bandwagons. Writers should be true to themselves and write from the heart no matter how popular their genre is or not.
About separating the good from the bad, I hear a lot of folks saying they are gonna stick with books from major houses that's how they can be sure the book isn't self-published or something they want to read. I don't know why some folks think the average reader will read just anything. Readers are smart and they aren't gonna settle for dreck. I think the best-written or either better overall of the self-published books will rise to the top while the others will stay at the bottom. But yeah, I've heard some readers say they now look up the name of the publisher before embarking on a book or author they haven't heard of, to make sure it's not self-published. I think the self-published authors who throw out crap are only hurting themselves. You can sell a book for 99 cents but if it's horrible, you will burn your chances of being read again.
One only has to sample bestsellers to see that readers aren't very discriminating or thoughtful about choosing books. With very few exceptions, the bestsellers tend in the direction of sex/violence written at the reading level of a ten-year-old.
This makes perfect sense when you consider how many people have to want to buy the books to put them on the bestseller list.