Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Publishing Industry Predictions

P. Bradley Robb is doing a fascinating multi-part blog series on The History of Publishing 2010 through 2020. Each part of the series is scheduled for the beginning of the week, with Part 1 appearing yesterday, January 4th, on the blog: Fiction Matters. He writes the series as if presenting events from an historical perspective rather than as predictions.

First, he presents things as-is at the start of 2010. Then he goes into the changes.
The best selling books continued to sell in record numbers, and niche works were able to find their audiences on a global scale. But the vast gulf of authors in the middle were selling fewer and fewer books. By the dawn of 2010, 95% of all books failed to sell even 5000 copies.
According to his “history,” small publishers, independents, and self-published authors began making moves in 2010.
As direct sales increased in 2010, some of the independent publishers began to experiment with internal recommendation engines that drew correlative evidence for future purchases from the books a current customer already had. …

And others took a more high tech route, including free electronic copies that connected to an online publishing community where readers could communicate directly with other readers based on common interest.
Yesterday, Robb also posted Part 2.

Here are some snippets from that post:
By September of 2010, many college students were taking a tablet to class, these students proved to be the vanguard of a new type of media consumption.

The holiday season of 2010 proved to be the final year of one of the world’s largest publishing houses. … 2011 began with five major publishers. It would end with even fewer.

Across the world, students began to scan their text books and convert them into digital copies. … Astronomically high pricing paired with disparate technological standards between publishers and draconian DRM schemes served only to fuel piracy. In the eyes of students, text book publishers were “like evil corporations.”
It’s one man’s look into the future, but it’s very interesting. Zip over and read both posts. Or keep checking back here. I’ll try to keep you up on his crystal ball. I’d be interested in hearing what you think of his perspective.
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21 comments:

  1. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that there's eventually some good news for authors in his predictions.

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  2. Many years ago (early eighties), my husband's cousin described what a CD was, and how it would revolutionize the music business. We didn't really get it, nor did we believe him. Who then could imagine the Internet, or IPods, or DVD's or any of the like? Now we have Kindle and other e-readers and the publishing world is undergoing a vast change. It's all scary, and so very different, but somehow we'll learn to make the best of it. I can imagine saying to my grandchildren, "You know, we used to read things typed on paper. Impossible for you to imagine, right?"

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  3. Liza - it's not that scary. Under the old system tens of thousands of people wrote books and the vast majority made no money from it.

    Under the new system, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people write books and none of them make any money from it.

    Honestly, from the point of view of the writer the system has received little more than a polish to put some extra shine on it.

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  4. Interesting post, Helen. Thanks for pointing it out to us. I'm hoping that if we just go with the flow and embrace the new technology (and have our agents and lawyers make sure we have a cut in all of the profits) than things will work out.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  5. Perhaps that's the key, Elizabeth. Authors need an expert to stand up for them, especially as these things take shape and become reality.

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  6. maybe it's because I've been living in the London of the mid 1500's through Wolf Hall but I think we need to take a looking glass and look back. Look what happened to Tyndale before during and after the Reformation. We have somehow forgotten how important it is not to hide the words from anyone - to use any technology to get people reading and writing and sharing and engaging and even enraging. And we who write need to humble ourselves in the eyes of the ancestor who threw down her pointed stick and clay palatte and said "Oicks -we can do better than this can't we?"

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  7. I'm old enough to remember IBM Selectric Typewriters and how word processing allowed you to save a few sentences. Then along came computers and fax machines. Technology is happening so fast, it makes my head spin. I'm trying not to worry about what it means to me personally because I can't do anything about it anyway. Just step on board for the ride. Thank goodness my memoir was never about making money.

    Karen

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  8. There are two constants through all the changes in technology. 1. People want a good story. 2. The elements of a good story are universal. As writers, we should concentrate on writing the story. Let the publishers decide how to get the story out to people.

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  9. Change must come or we'll all wither on the vine. I hope the vine flowers and that no one chops it down.

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  10. I think individually we have little power, but with the Authors Guild and the collective power of the Internet, we have a voice. It's just difficult to know where things are heading or what to say about it all. You're right Jan and Mark, we still have to get our words out there.

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  11. Jane, don't worry, the good news is coming. But since I'm arranging this as a narrative, I do have to delay that gratification, don't I?

    Glad the series is being enjoyed.

    -PBR

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  12. I like where his train of thought is headed!

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  13. Welcome, Bradley.

    I am indeed enjoying your series.

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  14. Guess we'll have to see what changes he foresees in the coming years that he covers in each post.

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  15. That's cool. Marketing is going to be key. Every market is dominated by big players, until the masses have no desire or will to look elsewhere. We become sheep. Creative people aren't sheep, but the market we sell into is conditioned to buy name brands. The next generation of readers will be ereaders, but until digital piracy is thwarted, and authors rights are protected, the piggy bank will remain dusty.

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  16. It's impossible to not become frustrated with the piracy thing. If all the clever minds involved in stealing things with technology would fight on the other side, I believe a solution could be found.
    The college textbook thing does irk me as a parent. The prices of those books are often outrageous and in many subject areas the book is outdated in a few years so it's not something one keeps on one's shelf for future reference.
    I wish someone would get a hold on those costs.

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  17. Wow! Sounds intriguing! I'll check it out :)

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  18. I'm with you, Susan. I have one in college and textbooks are very expensive, plus there are books outside of textbooks that have to be bought for reference.

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  19. Having gone to college and worked in a couple college book stores, the dislike for text books is pretty well established. They made for an easy catalyst in the narrative.

    Susan, as far as your frustration with piracy goes, I think your fears might be a little overstate. Brian O'Leary at Magellan Media Partners conducted (and technically still is) a study on the effects of piracy using huge swaths of data from O'Reilly and Random House. The surprising outcome is that piracy typically increased sales for physical books. David Pogue tried his own experiment and found that when his book was heavily pirated his sales actually increased.

    The reason I didn't have this work for text book publishers is because of who and how they sell their books - to a largely captive audience in a near monopolistic setting. They're not competing so there's little reason to have reasonable prices, innovate, or market to the customer.

    -PBR

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  20. Thanks for this, Helen. I added his blog to my RSS reader and started following him on Twitter. I always find the most interesting stuff here on your blog. :)

    As to college kids scanning in their text books... don't hold your breath. From what I read the Kindle DX distros at selected colleges went over like a lead balloon. Ebooks are great for reading, but for note taking and page flipping - not so much. But maybe the user interface will improve over time.
    ~jon

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