Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Future of Publishing?

Will traditionally printed books go the way of the CD, whose sales are plummeting as music lovers find new (read "cheap") ways to listen to their favorite artists?

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman thinks so. In a June 6 column titled "Bits, Bands and Books," he writes, "Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account."

Food for thought. Click here to read the complete article.

7 comments:

Diane said...

"Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission."

I already see that happening. I've even heard the advice that "your book is just a giant business card." Authors are expected to have a slew of products to sell other than their books.

Mark David Gerson said...

I wonder how that will work for fiction...?

Diane said...

Maybe sheer volume? You're probably not thinking of children's lit but think of how prolific RL Stine is...now that's a product!

Mark David Gerson said...

I suspect that the RL Stines and JK Rowlings of the world -- ie, those who rocket to the top -- will always find plenty of people to buy their work. I suppose the question is, what writers do until they become (or in case they don't become) the next Stine or Rowling.

I'm not bemoaning the situation, mind you. Just noticing that we're in the midst of a massive transition. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out...

Carolyn said...

As I see, we're not there yet. I find the comparison to music to be inapt, so far. The digitization of music wasn't the event that tipped things to the current state of affairs so much as it was the invention of the MP3 player. That handy device is worlds better than a CD-ROM player for listening to music. For the user, the MP3 player is standardized (pick any manufacturer you like!) massively convenient and far more flexible. And these days one can be had for less than $100.

An eBook reader is only sort of convenient.It's not standardized, but proprietary (chose your manufacturer at your own peril and by the way, now you and your books are locked in) and it is not inexpensive.

The other statements in the article could be the basis of a quite lengthy rebuttal. There's nothing new about digitized books. That's been around, profitably, for going on ten years now.

Content for proprietary eBooks is not cheaper than the print version, from what I've seen, it's actually higher. The epublishers who are turning a profit (Ellora's Cave to name only one) are not charging $10.00 for their products.

Easier to copy does NOT mean harder to sell. It's only harder to sell if you're ripping off your customer by locking them in, limiting their choices, reducing the convenience and charging too much. And right now, that's what the eBook pushers are doing.

Mark David Gerson said...

All good points. Thanks, Carolyn.

Mark David Gerson said...

Some more thoughtful comment in this blog post.