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Monday, September 15, 2008

Evolve or DIE

It seems to me that there has been a lot of chatter amongst interested parties - including this blog - about how the publishing industry is in some sort of death spin. Everywhere I turn, there are articles and discussions attempting to take the publishing industry's blood pressure, and then bemoaning the weak result.

Recent case in point - an article in New York Magazine by Boris Kachka, "The End." The article is both illuminating and disturbing, presenting the usual business view, as well as a look back at the history of the industry and an insider angle which is not often shared with outsiders like me.

Yet, I come to the end of the article feeling terrified. Terrified of the ominous threat of Amazon, terrified of the impending doom of Borders, terrified of the unknown future of technology.

Here's the thing: the publishing industry has to change if it wants to remain an industry. It has to figure out a way to increase its profit margin, to expand, to keep selling its product in whatever form is actually going to sell.

But me, I don't have to change, I just have to change my expectations. Even without the promise of a fat advance, or an earned out royalty check, or a coveted spot on the best seller list, I have faith that there will always be writers. They'll do it for the love of the art, for the love of sharing their story. They'll find partners in technology, people who support them, read them, believe in them.

And whether or not anyone is making any money, I'll still be here reading.

3 comments:

Jessica said...

Writers will still write for money! Books may change in format, but they will still be something that people will pay for, hence good (and unfortunately bad) writing will be sought after rewarded with pay.

stu said...

A reasonably straighforward way of guessing what will happen is to look at the sort of things that have happened to the music industry in the past ten years or so.

Randika said...

Man, this is one of those things that makes me feel a little queasy. As a writer, the web as been a heck of a lot more friendly and inviting, if non-paying. It's been a great way to establish a small list of credits. However, I'd be lying if I said I didn't long to see my words on paper and feel that page in my hand. So far, the web *has* paid me, but "Print" has not. The problem of the web though is the same problem print has had for years: there's a huge amount of dreck out there that's very hard to sort through. The web is insanely difficult to sift through for the good stuff.

Yes, the publishing industry must change because the nature of readers (and spelling for that matter) has changed. I still feel that there's something ultimately satisfying about holding a page. Nothing has ever surpassed ink and paper as far as reading ease. The market is shrinking, but it will not disappear entirely.

I do agree with Stu on this, as much as I hope he's wrong. If we look to the music industry for our future, the only way an author will actually make money will be an insanely long speaking/reading tour with absurdly high ticket prices.

Eek. Long post. Sorry.