The Future of Books or Publishers?
No one can really predict the future. There was a time when people thought physical books would be all there would ever be. The digital book caught people by surprise. So if you disagree with my particular prediction, I’m okay with it. There are plenty of things in the future none of us can see just yet.
That being said, I believe that the most uncertain aspect of future of books is publishers. Readers have been vocal about what they want, “…people are saying they want the things that a bookstore can offer.”1 Authors have been becoming their own advocates, “…hardly a month goes by without a well-known writer taking the leap [to self-publishing] or declaring an intention to do so.”2 The question is, can publishers adapt to accommodate the requirements of readers and authors? Can they remain relevant?
Despite a lot of bad press, publishers can be a good thing. With the exponential increase in digital books, how are readers supposed to know which books are worth their money?3 One of the biggest ways publishers help readers is by acting as a kind of filter. Not all books that are written are worth buying. Admittedly, a lot of authors counter this by offering their ebooks for free, but then they tend to get buried amongst all the other free books. Because of this, some of the best publicity for a book is word-of-mouth.4
Bloggers have become influential in the book world, and publishers have been catching on to this. Penguin has their First To Read program.5 Crown publishing has Blogging for Books.6 Independent publishers have also created beta-reader programs.7 All to start the word-of-mouth process of getting their books in the public eye. This is a very positive step for publishers to adapt to the still-changing literary landscape.
Of course, there are still areas open for improvement. Books are illegally downloaded just as they used to be scanned without permission. Publishers are still fine-tuning agreements with libraries regarding approved ebook lending practices.8 But they are adapting a lot faster than the music industry has.
The smaller, independent publishers are having a much easier time than the bigger publishers so it leads me to think that the Independent Publishers will dominate. We’ve already seen readers pushing for more independent bookstores and authors looking to self-publish from the start. It looks like the future of book publishing will have to center around independence.
Another possibility is that publishers become the first phase of a writer’s career. With so many authors wanting to self-publish, you need a bit of name recognition before you can get enough readers to support you. Book publishers provide marketing and can easily build up a new author until they are able to stand on their own, if they so choose.
The literary world is finally settling into a new mode in the digital age. Readers/Bloggers/Authors have found their places and their roles in this new realm and, as smaller groups, they can adapt quickly to any more changes that happen. What remains to be seen for the future of books, is what role the Publisher will play.
Thank you, Rachel, for joining us today! Leave a comment for Rachel below!
1) Eyman, Scott, “Ann Patchett on books’ future: “I think we’ll be just fine.”, McClatchy – Tribune Business News [Washington], March 2, 2013
2) Pham, Alex, “THE FUTURE OF READING; Authors writing off publishers; Some are shunning the traditional way to get books printed and self-publishing online.”; Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles, Calif], December 26, 2010
3) Leddy, Chuck, “The changing future of books”, The Writer April 2010
8) Ollier, Peter, “The future of digital books”, Managing Intellectual Property April 2011