Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Outlook on Publishing

The outlook for the publishing industry seems to be what folks in the know are talking about. Sometimes it’s doom and gloom. Other times it’s gloomy but not so doomy. Then it’s gloomy and getting doomy.

The latest word on the deep economic slump, this time from Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy, was a warning that “possibly worse scenarios may be on the way.”

But it wasn’t all the-sky-is-falling talk. Ms. Reidy addressed a group of 20 religion house CEOs prior to her keynote address at the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) convention earlier this month. She talked about the issues and problems. Here’s a bit from the Publishers Weekly article:
Critical issues facing publishers included: significant decrease in retail traffic, less consumer purchasing, a gloomy economic forecast, declining backlist sales, brand name authors continuing to sell but “everything else is far off normal levels,” and retail partners who demand more favorable terms and concessions “as if we are the answer to their problems,” she said. Other pre-existing problems she enumerated include retailers competing with publishers, low barriers to self-publishing, and the economics of digital publishing that appear to bring in less revenue.
Okay, that was sort of the gloomy part. But the upbeat part was:
While declining readership is certainly an issue, Reidy told PW that “now we have the chance to actually find the reader where they are spending their time—in front of a screen—and cement a relationship with them through e-mail newsletters, viral marketing, mobile delivery and other tools.” Publishing survives, she noted, because readers have a fundamental need for information, inspiration, and entertainment, “and they get that in a book, directly from an author, in an unfiltered way that they cannot get from any other medium.”
She specifically had this to say to Christian publishers:
“I’m not sure that it is possible any longer to be so highly specialized and survive.” The Christian demographic has expanded, she said, “it is more diverse than it formerly was, and they want one-stop shopping where they can find books that meet their informational, financial, lifestyle and entertainment needs as well as their Christian product needs…by limiting our choices in publishing and retailing to only those books that have a direct Christian message we are effectively driving them to buy from the competition.”
Although the last was directed to specific Christian publishers, her keynote was addressed to all the publishing attendees. She was, in effect, urging publishers to take advantage of the Internet, to keep up with the times, to give the readers what they want.


  1. Maybe a good thing will come of all this economic trouble.

    Maybe POD will gain more respect.

    Morgan Mandel - Double M

  2. That's true Morgan. If nothing else, maybe folks will learn that POD does not equal self-publishing. POD is a method of printing.

  3. Book sales usually increase during economic downturns because it's a cheap form of entertainment, and multi format sales are the least expensive of the lot, so I'm sure that although hard cover sales are declining, ebooks sales will increase dramatically.

  4. Are there figures on how many people read ebooks or have ebook readers? I know they're becoming more common, but is it enough to offset the drop in print book sales?

  5. good post, and very informative. I was especially interested in the exhortation to Christian pubs. Very true dat. About the changing and expanding demographics of the "christian" readership.

  6. Marvin, not only are Christian bookstores needing to expand in what they offer...I think more "lay" people are reading Christian fiction.

  7. I think ebooks will go up in sales, but I'm also hopeful this will see a new rise in smaller publishers again. I'm very sick of these big conglomerates that spend all their money on books by Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber


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