Over at Barnes and Noble Review.com, Daniel Menaker has a lengthy post on the state of the publishing industry, from his perspective as a recent senior personage in said industry. It's a comprehensive litany of (depressing) issues. It covers much of the same information we authors have all heard for years, and which makes you wonder how such a dysfunctional industry has managed to keep going.
Which begs the question of how long it will continue to do so. Not quite ten years ago, when POD first waltzed onto the scene, there was a great buzz that the paradigms had changed and that traditional publishing would be all but dead in a couple of years. You may also recall this was the time of the Internet bubble, and that paradigm-change argument was being used to explain all sorts of idiotic business practices (like ignoring financial statements) that blew up in everybody's faces. Which everyone conveniently forgot when they moved onto the next big thing, housing...
But I digress. POD did not change the publishing industry. It became another blip factor, creating a lot more "printed" work out there but doing little to alter the mega-publisher landscape. The POD technology, as opposed to the POD business model, has certainly become mainstream, particularly for small presses. But we as authors are still facing the same hurdles as before and POD didn't change that.
So what's different today? The issues Daniel raises have been around now for years. Is there anything looming that might actually change any of this?
Right now, no. Tomorrow? Probably not. Five years? Possible. Ten years? I'm gonna say yes. And here's why.
It's a confluence of events, any one of which might not be sufficient but in aggregate I think may change the game. One is the financial situation we're in. Yes, it is supposedly getting better, but glacially. And the historic participants in this game, particularly publishers and bookstores (not Amazon, not Walmart, probably not Ingram) are already on (or over) the edge financially. Can they hold on? Maybe, or maybe they'll start to implode. Another factor is e-books. No, they're not ready for prime time yet, either from the standpoint of hardware or business model. But I think in a few years they will become a serious factor. The iPhone/iTunes store model is just too compelling - it makes so much more business sense, and consumer sense (from a purchasing standpoint). But it won't happen with the current publishing model, either from the publisher side or the author side. I don't think it will replace bookstores (nor do I want them do; I love to browse as much as the next person), but I think they have the potential to be a major factor, and influence things much the way the Internet and Amazon have (while Amazon may not command the lion's share of book sales, they have an influence out of proportion to those sales. Where do we all go to look to check out a new book or author?) (Am I putting too many thoughts in paren's here?)
Finally, while the trend toward less book reading has been going on for decades, as a result of television and other factors, the Internet has certainly accelerated that, and things such as texting are influencing the "next" generation to have even shorter attention spans that the last one. Such folk are not conditioned to curl up in a chair and spend time sloooooowly reading a good book.
All of these, taken together, say to me that things will end up being more different 10 years from now than today is from 10 years ago. File this under the crystal ball department. Since they say nothing ever gets archived off the Internet, this blog post should still be hanging around in some form or another in 10 years. Someone post a reply then and let me know if I got it right. :o)