Windows into the Imagination

Friday, October 7, 2011

Publishing the Future

There is no crystal ball out there showing us what the future will be like. There are only hints and suggestions, people who dare to make a forecast.

One thing is inescapable though. Change is coming and is here already here. It is not going away. The question is: will you embrace it, run from it in terror, stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away, or hold it off as long as possible as you hope that some logical course of action will magically present itself and tell you where to go?

Embracing change has never been the strong suit of the publishing industry and in the end, that may be its downfall.

I've read a couple of articles and blogs recently and was somewhat surprised at the lack of logic that goes into the determination of the future.

As those who've been in the industry for awhile, or those who have educated themselves about the industry, self-publishing is the black sheep of the family. The bastard child that people laugh at and refuse to legitimize. Not far from them are the PODers and the small publishers who are struggling to build a reputation. It seems that if you're not recognized by the 'traditional' publishers, in an industry that is changing faster than the weather, then they try to brand you with that same 'self-publishing' type stigma.

A publisher of one of the large publishing houses recently said that POD is the future. He could envision vending machines selling books in the future where the reader can pick whichever book is desire and it gets printed and bound right there. It makes sense. Why would anyone print hundreds and thousands of books on speculation when you have no idea how many will actually sell? In this cost-conscious society, it makes no monetary sense. It's a huge investment of resources and in many cases, reaps very little benefits. Of the thousands or hundreds of thousands of books printed every year, how many will actually sell and how many will end up in the bargain bins? I don't know enough about this industry to know what happens to orphaned books that don't even sell on the sale racks.

My question is that if you know this is where the publishing industry is going, why are you still stigmatizing the PODers?

The other interesting piece of logic I ran into recently was that print can not be ignored because 55% of books sold are still print books. Which sounds logical. Until you take a look at the bigger picture, and that is looking at the trend.

How many years have ebook readers been out? Not many. Do you see the problem? The trend is not static.
That means in the few short years ebooks have been in existence, they have devoured 45% of the market. If that trend continues, and with advance of the tablet computers and the new Kindle fire, guess what the numbers will be in a few more years, or even one.

Remember video tapes? One day, they were filling the racks at the electronics stores and it seemed like we blinked and the next day, it was all replaced with DVDs. That is how fast technology changes these days.

In another article, someone else was mystified at why all the authors on the short list of a major writing award were not from the major publishing houses. Well...let me tell you why...

Adapt or die.


  1. I think the vending machines with books already exist in some countries. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure I read that somewhere.

  2. Ooh, do you know where they have those machines?