With the ongoing news of the major publishing houses cleaning house, most recently Harper Collins, and all the restructuring, what personal changes have you seen as either an author or publisher?
Would love to hear your personal stories from the trenches.

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Publisher's Marketplace had a story in it which said HP's operating income dropped 75% in the last six months. Holy Hanna, Hargrave! Where's all the reader/buyers at these days?
I didn't mean HP. . . ! I mean HC; HarperCollins!
Thanks B.R. for the reply... Got ya! HP is making those cuts too in the tech sector. Everyone is feeling the squeeze these days.
I think what's next is probably further consolidation, at list in Big Pub; fewer houses with fewer imprints publishing fewer books. You might even see NewsCorp getting out of the book business altogether, which would be fine with me. In tough times (and these tough times in publishing have been coming at us for awhile now) industries contract; they also tend to take fewer risks and focus on proven money-makers, which can be a big mistake. Those who can afford to innovate will come out of the current recession (depression, in publishing) smelling like roses, I'm guessing. Innovation in this case could mean a lot of things, and could be either good or not so good for the industry: electronic publishing would likely to do to us what the digital music "revolution" did to the recording industry--put an easily ripped electronic medium into the hands of consumers and if it's popular it'll be pirated instantly, all over the world. Cutting book prices (maybe eliminating hardcover sales altogether at some big houses) might be a good idea, as would limiting executive pay, and getting tough on returns and excessive advances—although the latter will be a tough one given the current competitive climate (others here disagree with me on this--fine). I think we'll get a lot closer to "just in time" publishing, too, if not an outright switch to publishing on demand, as a way of cutting down on returns, excess inventory and remainders. Also, if I was a big publisher, I'd take a close look at online booksellers' practice (I'm talking about you, Amazon) of offering used copies at big discounts on the same webpage as a new, full-priced copy of the book. I have no problem with Amazon selling used books, but let's not go out of our way to undercut new book sales, as they do now. One of the other big issues in genre, especially (and crime in particular) is the aging demographic: we really do have to figure out how to reach younger readers, or the industry will die a slow but certain death. We may be headed that way no matter what we do--my students don't read books unless you make them. Everyone I knew read voraciously in college, but there was no internet then, porn was expensive and difficult to find, and the only video game you could buy was "Pong."
At least, not "at list." Oy.
Great reply, Jon. You touched on many areas that are absolutely true. When I worked at Borders years ago, I started to notice the effects of Napster, Apple and Amazon... the list could go on.
Returns!!! Don't even get me started on that subject... as a publisher I could tell horror stories.
Great point on Amazon too and these Marketplace sellers. How is it that you list a title and 40 other sellers suddenly have it? It Cannibalizes sales when some marketplace seller is undercutting your book by 50%. The attention span has gotten shorter no doubt and the victim is the written word.
Wow! I worked at Borders, too, right after grad shcool--downtown DC, circa 1993-'94. I was just a lowly plebe, though--although I did start that store's still-running and now very popular reading series. That first year we had about 5 audience members each for reading by George Garret, the Bausch brothers and Alan Cheuse; ahead of our time, I guess.
People are reading more now than ever; they're just doing it on the internet.
Absolutely agree about the listing of used copies next to the new ones on Amazon. Other than that Amazon does a hell of a lot more to push my books than the bookstore that orders a large number and returns them to the publisher a month later to make room on the shelf for something else. There's nothing more depressing than royalty statements that show side-by-side thousands in orders and thousands in returns -- and that in the first quarter after release. I've become very bitter about bookstores. And, having had a chat with a librarian, who told me proudly that they now have the new releases the same week as the stores, I'm pretty bitter about libraries, too. The publisher can control that. They can put limits on returns and they can sell to libraries two months after the book is released to stores. That'll give author and publisher a small window to make some sales to the public.
The librarian could just go to the bookstore and buy it for the library like a regular consumer though.
Yes, but they get library rates from publishers, and besides that surely would screw up their bookkeeping.
Make books cheaper and more young people would probably read. I don't think video games hurt reading. Until recently, before the Wii explosion, most young people who read were the same ones who play video games so I don't think video games are taking the place of people reading.

Could you explain how Amazon is going out of their way to undercut new book sales? All I see is a link underneath the more prominent new book price. I'd hardly say that's going out of their way. But maybe you're referring to something different?


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