Third-hand quotes borrowed from The Book Bench, at The New Yorker Online. These are all anonymous. I've taken the liberty of picking out the most interesting (to me) quotes in bold:
From Farrar, Straus & Giroux:
We’re privately owned and not quite as massive as houses like Random House. We’ve definitely been feeling the burn with shorter print runs and a tightening on what we can buy, and we’ve had some really bleak editorial meetings. Still, I don’t think we’ll see the same kind of layoffs like what’s been going on at the bigger houses. I hope. The powers that be have been encouraging us to come up with book ideas and seek out authors ourselves, rather than relying on agents, and I think that’s smart. I can only hope that, come January, we can see some changes. That said, I think the wave of digitizing is going to effect publishing in the long run. We have to figure out a way to get people to buy books. Real books.
From Penguin, a subsidiary of Pearson, where pay increases for employees making more than fifty thousand dollars a year have been frozen:
It’s apparently going to save the company (and this is all of Pearson) upward of forty million dollars. I think it’s a sound approach, better than layoffs and reshuffling, but it’s also something we’re in a position to try, whereas maybe others aren’t. We don’t have debt and we have a massive backlist that will help in the next year. And though I don’t know the exact numbers, I’ve been told that we’re doing better than expected for the year.
From Hachette, which (buoyed by sales of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, perhaps?) is giving every employee a holiday bonus equal to a week’s salary:
Part of the blame has to go to your industry—the diminishing influence of print and authority and criticism in bringing buyers to the stores. Book departments are being slashed across the country. It’s the small presses—the Graywolfs, the Milkweeds—that are going to come out of this. They’ll be the ones publishing literary fiction, because they pay their writers a ten-, twenty-thousand-dollar advance and print five thousand copies. For a small press, a book that sells forty thousand copies is a huge success; for us, it’s a disaster. It’s not sustainable.…Like Clemenza says in “The Godfather”: “These things gotta happen every five years or so.”
And from a small, independent publishing house:
When you look at what happened to the publishing industry this week, it’s tempting to assign blame, recession aside, to one or more of the widely lamented yet seldom addressed issues plaguing our business—the excess of titles being published, the money being paid for these titles in the form of headline-grabbing advances, the reluctance to embrace new technologies that promise to make our industry more efficient and more relevant. Whatever the ultimate cause—or, more likely, causes (obviously, recession included)—it is clear that things need to change. This is a brutal shock to the system, for sure, and I feel for all of my publishing friends and colleagues who have lost their jobs. (For all I know, tomorrow it could be me.) But I am hopeful that this forceful rethinking and restructuring will result in a much more stable environment than we’ve had over the past several years, and a more promising future for book publishing in general.
LM: Will the e-book be the savior of the industry? I don't think so, really, because I think electronic publishing doesn't solve one of the basic issues in the industry: quality. The recession, I suspect, has merely exposed the widely varied quality of the fiction being published. Is that too harsh an opinion? I've been deeply disappointed in some of the bestsellers I've had to read for my book club, and if those are the Big Books meant to save their publishers, I'm not at all surprised said publishers are in trouble.