Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Future of the Book Business

Publishers Weekly pointed me to Tuesday's New York Times, which had an op/ed piece on the book business here.

The editorial began with the reminder that Borders is in precarious shape. Suppliers are refusing to restock and landlords are beginning to take defensive measures.
Despite all that, we are happy to say that it’s far too early to kiss book publishing goodbye. E-book sales more than doubled in the first 11 months of last year — to about 8 percent of total sales. E-readers are flying off the shelves, and overall book sales are holding up as the paper-based industry transitions to the digital age, increasing 3.5 percent in the first 11 months of 2010.

The op/ed points out some of the challenges the book business faces; obstacles we have discussed on this blog over the years:

  • People have so many more options for ways to spend their precious leisure time
  • Publishers compete for best-selling authors, making it tougher for new writers to break into the business
  • The possibility that readers no longer want to read book-length material, preferring to opt for shorter material
  • The push toward social interaction via the web, which is very different from the solitary occupation of reading a book

The piece concludes with this optimistic statement:

Though book sales have declined slightly in the last 10 years as a share of
consumer spending, they have still grown more than 15 percent over the period,
after accounting for inflation. And Nooks, Kindles and the like might actually
help books gain a wider following by taking the bookstore to the customer.

May it ever be thus.

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