Friday, October 16, 2009

Surviving Books

One of the big topics at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany this week is online writing and the effect it has on the book publishing industry. According to EarthTimes,
The spectre haunting the industry is the discovery that today, everybody is a writer.
There are a lot of good writers out on the Internet and they’re putting their words online for free.
"Digital content is completely altering the publishing industry," said Eoin Purcell, a consultant and writer, warning that even the most respected names in publishing will not be able to claim any "right to survive" in the new book economy.
Not everyone believes free online content will destroy print publishing.
The other camp argues that publishers should stop whining, devise new and irresistible ways of selling information, and roll out digital books faster and better than the so-called pirates. …

Kassia Krozser, a respected New York blogger, urged the book industry to no longer regard paper books as their prime product. Her slogan is: "Digital first, print maybe."
Edward Nash, a consultant, perhaps summed it up best:
"We as publishers have to abandon the notion that our previous business model is permanent."
There are still plenty of readers out there. Some now do the majority of their reading online, but even the most avid bloggers or FridayFiction writers are also book readers. The industry can survive with both.
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18 comments:

  1. The important thing is that people are still interested in reading, with all the other diversions out there. No matter the format.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  2. No no no! Please say it ain't so! I do understand that every business needs to revisit their business model to keep up with the times, but this would drastic and unwarranted! I think I would stop breathing without books...this would kill me.

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  3. I know what you're saying, Lisa. I usually spend about an hour reading in the early morning hours. It's still dark outside and I sit in a chair in the quiet of the living room and read. Some day I may do that curled up with an eReader, but it's hard to imagine it.

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  4. Yeah, it will survive. Change might happen but books will live.

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  5. I'm always amazed at the topic you blog about every day and wonder where you find all the info!

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  6. There has to be a happy medium with books and digital. Kudos to the forward thinking publisher who successfully, and quickly, integrates the two!

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  7. I don't mind new technology, I just don't want to lose what I love--books in print.
    karen

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  8. I agree with Joanne, there is a happy medium for both. I enjoy online reading, but nothing compares to the feel of holding a good book and turning the pages, the smell of the new book or aged one. It's not just the story, it's the experience.

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  9. I think the total switch to digital books is still a long way away -- at least long enough for those of us who love to hold a book and caress a page to go on to book heaven. Then the younger generations who have grown up with everything digital will enjoy the new technology.

    I think we need to keep in mind that story is story no matter the medium. It all started with verbal storytelling, then evolved from there, and nothing was lost.

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  10. We're having a paradigm shift in the way the world works. Edward Nash did sum it up best. Times are changing and the people who embrace that change will flourish, IMO (because there will always be readers).

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  11. I don't think there is any danger of books, physical bound copies made from fibers of cellulose, ever going away. But the current business model for publishing certainly may. It is the nature of all businesses - adapt or die.

    Book lovers (I count myself among them) will always have their books. Story lovers will simply have more options on how they receive their stories.

    I am one of the people who publishes fiction on line for free. But these short pieces of flash are simply intended to help build a following. I fully intend to make actual money off my longer works. But I could care less if that money is earned from digital sales or physical sales.
    ~jon

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  12. Hi Helen,

    Your blog title is inspired! Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting yesterday. You hit me on a crazy week, to be sure. Your blog is great, and of great interest to me in that I have a long held dream of becoming a writer. I lament the dying art of old fashioned letter writing, esp. given that a book in the form of a series of letters has been swarming around in my skull for years. I'm so glad I started blogging in June...the quality of my day to day existence has increased exponentially as a result!

    I'll be back to your blog as well. Thanks again - Leslie

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  13. Maryann makes a very good point. The methods may evolve, but story-telling will be around for ever.

    Elspeth

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  14. Good points. Books may disappear (and I emphasize the "may"), but stories will always be around.

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  15. It's a tough issue because as much as I enjoy reading blogs and other online content "for free," there's nothing like sitting down with a good book. I don't think that will ever be replaced.

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  16. It would be a sad day when, in order to read a book, we had to go to a museum.

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  17. We all know the book publishing industry is evolving, faster than anyone can keep up with, I hope the printed word never becomes extinct. If you think about it, we have been putting down symbols and words forever- back in the day, first on stone, then on paper, now on cathode ray tubes and thin film transistor liquid crystal display (whatever all that means- computer monitors). Japan is getting big with “texting books” or books you can download to your cell phone. Symbolic communication is as old as humankind.
    Self-publishing and print on demand have the traditional publishing houses scurrying. Traditional publishing houses have been the norm for over 100 years.
    There has always been an interface, between creativity and productivity. Most authors never set out to write, just to make money. It is an art and a craft. Even so called self-publishing has taken on more of a corporate feel Example, the major self publishing firms AuthorHouse, Xlibris etc, are now merging and being bought up and turned into one big entity. Kind of like the airlines or the banks. So much of it is about and has been about making money. That is something that does not speak to most writers, writing from the heart.
    I liken writing to the practice of medicine. The writer is the doctor, and the rest of the publishing industry is like all the other people working in health care. Writing is an art and a craft, just as the practice of medicine is. Like corporate health care, it becomes big and convoluted in the publishing industry, when all the writer ever set out to do was practice their craft. For many it becomes a lifelong practice and commitment.
    Incidentally the whole issue of self-publishing goes back to the very basic roots of our country. Maybe things are coming full circle. I’m pretty sure Ben Franklin has his own printing press, and was one of the first self-publishers.
    Do writers have a need to be heard? I think so. Is it a simple need for recognition, a narcissistic endeavor to fill an emptiness for something that never was? I don’t think so. The dedication, the love of the word and for telling the story takes on spiritual ramifications.
    The great irony in the revolution of book publishing, all the blogging, all the websites, the POD, etc, brings us up close and personal with the author. That is in a virtual social networking kind of way. It is more intimate than ever from that perspective.
    Most people can only read one word at a time, the reader and the book, is a most profoundly intimate connection. With that said, I have never been able to discard or throw out any book I ever owned. (No I’m not a hoarder) I don’t know what that is about, but there has always seemed to be something sacred about a book, some atavistic respect.
    I think we will continue to have books, to take with us wherever we go. It is a tremendous human connection.
    Helen, you have an outstanding and useful blog. Thanks.
    Joe
    http://alzheimmers.blogspot.com

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  18. Thank you, Joe, for such a thoughtful comment.

    I certainly didn't start out writing to make money. I was much too young to even think that. I just wanted to write. Writers are not unique in that way, I don't believe. I suspect most doctors have had an urge to go into medicine long before they committed to school.

    I have lots of books, too, although I have given some away over the years. It's sort of odd that I keep them, so I rarely go back and re-read a book. But I do like books, like seeing them on the shelves, and I love books that I've gotten autographed.

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