Friday, August 23, 2013


Fascinating commentary on the state of book publishing right here.  Personally, I don't think I've bought more than a dozen regular "narrative reading" books in a brick-n-mortar bookstore in the last ten years (and most of those were in one fell swoop when I burned through a gift card.)  Otherwise, I'm all Amazon all the time.

And I am a very late adopter of ebooks.  I still don't really do them much, and I don't have a dedicated device for them.  But the writing is on the wall for bookstores (heck; that writing was on the wall 10-15 years ago.  Now everybody's moved past it already.)  The writing is on the wall for traditional publishing houses.  Turns out, hey!  People don't like elitist gatekeepers enriching themselves while limiting supply.  With no need to work through the gatekeepers anymore, the only thing keeping them running is inertia.  I'll probably run them on for a few more years.  Maybe even a decade or two.  But at some point, it'll be obvious that the value they provide to customers and writers both is negligible.  And who wants to pay someone a bunch of money for negligible return?

Wrtiers will increasinly be self-promoting via the internet, and will reach their market on their own merits, and may, in fact, quickly become mostly self-published.  This will not only benefit the writer when the customer base finally is completely on board, but will also greatly benefit the customer, who will have much more selection and much more choice.

In theory, the publishers could make the argument that they do provide a service, to me the customer, by filtering poor manuscripts, and providing editing and polishing work (as well as snazzy cover art, which let's face it--I still like.)  But in reality, I'm not thrilled with their service, I think it poorly serves me, and it generally adds little to no value to me.  I've read far too many piss-poor novels that were published to suspect that the ones that aren't are really even worse.  Plus, almost every author has a story of being rejected multiple times before finally finding a publisher who goes on to make a killing with their story.  The idea that publishers are actually effective filters for customers is proveably false.

On the other hand, I do buy a fair bit of books from stores that are not bookstores per se.  I buy many of my gaming books from a game store, for instance.  I buy Boy Scout books from a hobby/hardware store.  I buy model railroading books (on occasion; that's just an armchair hobby for me, I'm not really a model railroader) from a hobby shop.  For those kinds of markets, traditional publishing still has a potentially rosy future, and the article linked above seems to suggest that as well.

But frankly, I don't even buy that many books anyway, compared to how many I read.  Thank you, public library.

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