Dying Dinosaurs Of Print Slow Suicide

Read it and weep
The economic news couldn’t be worse for the book industry. Now insiders are asking how literature will survive.

The end of days is here for the publishing industry — or it sure seems like it. On Dec. 3, now known as “Black Wednesday,” several major American publishers were dramatically downsized, leaving many celebrated editors and their colleagues jobless. The bad news stretches from the unemployment line to bookstores to literature itself.

“It’s going to be very hard for the next few years across the board in literary fiction,” says veteran agent Ira Silverberg. “A lot of good writers will be losing their editors, and loyalty is very important in this field.”

Who was it that said, “If you want loyalty, get a dog”?

Yes, writers who are treated well are loyal. Stupid us. The rest of the world runs on money.

This is key:

Finally, experts suggest that publishers missed crucial opportunities to cope with digital books, Internet innovations and economic pressures. “The big houses proved incapable of looking at the future. I’ve always been struck at how relatively un-nimble the big houses are,” says Tom Engelhardt, a consulting editor at Metropolitan books and the author of the prophetic novel “The Last Days of Publishing.” He recently wrote an essay about the crisis at his Web site, TomDispatch.com, and says he predicted the crash for years — but no one would listen.

Emphasis added by me.

He’s right. Just ask the newspapers.

Here comes the future:

Neelan Choksi, Lexcycle’s chief operating officer, agrees that the midlist will suffer in coming years. “There’s going to be less support for smaller writers in the traditional publishing model, in the big buildings in Manhattan,” he explained. “But self-publishing and digital books haven’t been considered. This upheaval will cause many authors to look at the alternatives more seriously.” The Stanza reader, for instance, stocks thousands of e-books at varying prices, from free public domain books to self-published titles to 40,000 titles from Fictionwise, one of the leading digital book vendors. That list includes a variety of bestsellers like David Wroblewski’s “Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and the nonfiction hit “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.”

Emphasis added by me.

Lexcycle will wind up with a store of its own at some point. I hope they do it right, unlike Apple. (Stanza, by the way, just got a glowing PC Magazine review.)

What’s needed is a WordPress-type thing, where authors can set up a site to flog their books. Basically, a blog with transactional capability. It has to all be blogging-easy, too. Writers don’t want to be techies and web designers. In fact, I’m surprised WordPress itself hasn’t added this yet.

This bit was a surprise to me. Writer Iain Levison (who still lacks a new website) alerted me to it via email this morning:

Rumors of publishing’s demise are probably overstated, but the future of publishing may depend on what those laid-off editors, publicists and industry leaders do next. The morning after Black Wednesday, a publishing blogger and e-book aficionado named Mike Cane stirred up his readers with a bite-size manifesto on Twitter: “If the FIRED NY pubstaff are such hot fucking shit, let them coalesce and form an EBOOK-ONLY IMPRINT to crush their fmr employers.” However callous this Twitter-versy seemed at the time, it posed an interesting challenge: Can the publishing world channel all of this collective anger, bewilderment and fear into industry-altering strategies?

Emphasis of me by me.

But really, that guy is a pain in the ass! I should know.

Still, that challenge holds. I’d like to see those book people get back into books — as eBooks. Apple isn’t doing writers any favors and we need book people.

We just don’t need Big Corporate Dying Dinosaurs of Print book people.

And neither do the Big Corporations, either.

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