Why is this such a big topic?
Why do bloggers and twitterers go on about how publishing may be doomed?
Because it hits to the core of who we are as a society.
We live and die by the printed word.
Communities change because of what has been written, and if Aldous Huxley is to be believed, society will suffer tremendously without it.
Nearly every day I read of another magazine or newspaper that is folding,
closing its doors and giving up the ghost of publishing.
Is this signaling the chaos before the end?
I'm an optimist for the publishing industry. A pessimist for what lies ahead for struggling writers
Let me explain. Consider how many books are printed every single year.
In 2005 (the most recent year data was collected for),
there were 206,000 new titles, while the US saw 172,000.
That’s titles, not the actual number of books.
Say there was an average of 10,000 books printed per each title. (Probably a conservative estimate.)
That would mean at least 3,780,000,000 physical, paper books were printed. This is only new titles that were introduced that year.
qHow many of those books hit the NYTimes bestseller list?
How many sold their entire first print run?
How many made back the money that was spent on their physical production?
Not all of them.
Nor even most of them.
It’s relatively few that ever make it big.
The publishers know not every book produced will succeed,
But now in these dark economic times for publishing, it is very likely
that will ask themselves,
"Why not save money and precious resources for most (if not all) of the titles that don’t have as much chance for immediate success?"
the purchasing agents will slam shut the gates on most of the books brought to them by agents.
Those agents, in turn, will reject nearly every query sent them by unknowns.
So, yes, publishing will have a future. We, as unknown authors, may very well not.
Oh, but there is ePublishing you say.
self-publishing may be the next dot-com bubble:
There's money to be made, so people are climbing over each other to post eBooks on Amazon so they can start raking in their fortune.
Except that's not going to happen, and eventually the flood of first-timers testing the self-publishing waters is going to subside.
some of the self-publishing poster children (Amanda Hocking being a good example) have used their success to procure traditional publishing deals.
And how sometimes it seems like there's more money to be made in teaching writers how to self-publish (i.e., a lot of self-publishing advocates aren't selling salvation, they're selling their own brand).
Amazon is turning eBook shoppers into bargain hunters who will stop paying for books in favor of ones they can get during free promotions.
All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars,
conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing
Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it.
Are we deluding ourselves?
Dangerous if that is true. If it is indeed a bubble, and the epub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done,
the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt.
Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds