Monday, January 11, 2010

Changing Publishing Paradigms

U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.3 billion in 2008, down from $25.0 billion in 2007, representing a 2.8% decrease. Association of American Publishers (AAP)

I tend to keep my “other” work life separate from my writing life, but increasingly, I’ve find the two coming together. I live and work in Silicon Valley, surrounded by technology. During the day I look at patents, inventions and technologies covering a huge array of industries – Increasingly I’m watching how technological innovation is bumping up against traditional publishing.
Ten years ago, there was no Google, no iPod, Kindle, Fastpencil or Smashwords -- Amazon had only been in business for 5 years. A lot has happened in the last decade that is compelling the publishing industry to take a look at traditional ways of doing business in an increasingly digital age.
Technology today, more than ever, has a disruptive impact on publishing. The Internet, print-on-demand and ebooks are some drivers for change. They impact multiple points of the publishing value chain—from the way books are published (authors can go direct to the reader), distributed (electronic marketplaces), sold (e-tailers) and read (ebooks). This is an interesting trend where technology is enabling increased number of books, but fewer bookstores – Independent Booksellers are in trouble, as are the big guys (Borders closing UK stores)
There have been massive lay-offs at major publishing houses, including my own, Simon & Schuster. S&S recently reduced its sales force, and I was sad to see our field rep in California, to Independent Booksellers, let go. Even book reviewers are facing extinction, such as Kirkus, which nearly hit the chopping block. But this is the world we live in – change is needed for survival. Many have prophesized the end of the printed book, but I don’t know – I own a kindle, but I still love to pick up a paper book, crack it open and inhale the fresh paper smell. Let’s see what the future brings…


  1. I don't think it's the end of the printed book by any means. I think the digital disruptions are merely avenues by which we'll find which books we'd like to own in physical form. I think the danger ahead is how we learn of new books. Without independent book stores, reviews, and people talking, it's going to be tougher to figure out "what" to read.

  2. Greg, thanks for the insightfull thoughts -- I think in the end, a balance will be achieved that accommodates market and consumer needs.