About Writing, Life and Writing About Life

Long Live Publishing

It’s interesting living in changing times, and being part of a changing industry. This could be thought of as related to the purported Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’, but I prefer to put a postiive slant on things where possible. Recently I’ve had a couple of conflicting insights into the possible future of the publishing industry.
The most recent came last week when speaking to a customer at my day job. Although he was organising a purchase for his father in rural Dorset, he is in fact based in Los Angeles. When my boss asked him what he did out there, his reply was that he “used to be part of the music industry, but there pretty much isn’t a music industry any more.” This made me think about the paralells between the music and publishing industries. The music industry has somewhat forged the way, with the Ipod bringing forward the availability of digital music. I remember when I was in my teens and I would save up pocket money to buy LPs – this was what drove the music industry at that time. Now, though, when he is at home, my son has constant access to whatever music he would like, mostly through YouTube. He does still buy music, though. He wants his favourite bands’ records so that he can listen to them when out of the house. But I am sure this is much less than when I was young, and therin lies the problem for the music industry as a whole. However, although the music industry is in trouble – there is still plenty of music out there.
The other insight came from the research I did for the ePublishing chapter in Be An Author (my new book which I am excited to say is out soon). Since the eReader has actually started to catch hold in the last few years, it seems as though publishing will probably go the same way as music. But I’m not sure that it will. For one thing, people like to listen to the same song over and over again, and with the possible exception of poetry that’s just not true of writing. People want to read new content. There is still the issue of free content – blogs are a bit like the YouTube equivalent for words, perhaps; lots of free content that you can take up all your time reading. However the research that has been done so far seems to show that people with eReaders read more books, not less, which has to be positive, right? What I do think will probably suffer is traditional publishing. I think that the big publishing firms will have to innovate like mad to keep up in a hugely changing world (a bit like the struggle that newspapers have), and whether they do this and survive over the decades to come remains to be seen.
The changes that have happened so far seem in some ways to have tipped the balance away from the author – gone are the days of large (if any) advances, and it is harder than ever for a new author to be taken on. Personally I think the tide will turn, though, and perhaps this has started already. As authors take the initiative themselves, can the publishing houses offer a good enough service to attract any talent other than the ‘tv celeb autobiography’? Are they ready to embrace new ways of promotion in a changing world? It is going to be interesting not just to watch, but to be involved in this sea change. My sentiment is that the publishing industry in its old form is in trouble – but Long Live Publishing!

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Comments on: "Long Live Publishing" (3)

  1. What a great Blog 🙂

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