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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The News About Publishing: Catastrophic But Not Serious

I just finished perusing Publishers Weekly's year-end roundup summarizing the biggest news stories of 2009, and as usual the situation in our industry is viewed as teetering on the brink of disaster. The number one story for the year is headlined, "Layoffs, Pay Cuts, and the Reshaping of the Industry," and things go downhill from there, with the article describing the unsustainable business terms Amazon appears to be demanding for its Kindle, bookstore closings by the hundred, a storm of controversy over the Google book-digitization settlement, etc. etc.

So what else is new? I've been in book publishing for 28 years now (God help me) and I don't recall a year when people weren't predicting the imminent demise of the business. It's second only to the theatre (AKA "the fabulous invalid") in terms of institutional hypochondria.

One day I suppose the dire forecasts will turn out to be correct and all the big publishing houses will collapse in a heap of rubble on Sixth Avenue, in which case we will report the news right here on the Consulting Editors Alliance blog! But meanwhile I comfort myself--perhaps naively--with the idea that, as a freelance writer and editor, I am a "content provider" rather than a publishing executive . . . and that as long as people want information, inspiration, and entertainment, they will want "content."

So whatever happens to the business model of book publishing--and heaven knows it's due for some massive changes--I believe there will be a place for me and the writers I work with. Anyway that is my story and I am sticking to it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with Karl. Any one of us who has been around the book business long enough (I've clocked in 37 years, God help me)has heard news of our demise many times. The formats may change (hardcover, paperback, tradepaper, Manga) and the vehicles (ereaders, vooks) but there will always be information channeled through writers.
    So long as there is the written word there will be a place for those of us who work with writers, helping them maximize their ideas and refine their work.
    However, as ereaders come on to the scene, my belief is that writers will need to adjust their material. But that's another issue so see my 'zine post WHY E READERS SCARE ME (http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-E-Readers-Scare-Me&id=3407035).