The Tubes

That’s where the publishing industry is going, apparently. As in, down. Way, way down. Deep into them there tubes.

Massive lay-off and some resignations, and entire trade divisions being wiped out. As gloomy as this might seem — especially for young writers, signing up for MFA programs and laboring over yet-to-be-sold first books — you can be sure of one thing: The human need for story will never diminish. How people buy and consume those stories, though, is likely to change, perhaps beyond recognition. This metamorphosis is going to be painful (what metamorphosis isn’t?) but whatever emerges might well be stronger, more efficient and actually better for writers.

In the meantime, information is power, people! KNOW what you are getting into. Be informed. To that end, here’s a helpful links round up. All hail the death of book publishing as we know it!

Read Galley Cat for breaking news. In particular here, here and here.

Things are not much better in the UK, in case you were wondering.

The Times weighs in, with some good common sense, about what new technologies mean for the demise — or not — of the book.

Booksquare has their own, ballsy take on the situation.

Then, if you really want to shock yourself, read this:

This is from I was moving through this article going, u-huh, u-huh, yup, this writer has it right, yup, makes sense….and then the zinger. Christ. I’m not going to reveal the zinger. Go read it for yourself. Suffice it to say, it actually made me feel better about the publishing meltdown. These lessons have to be learned.


7 responses to “The Tubes

  1. Want to make any personal predictions about the future of publishing? Are my grandchildren going to find my hardbacks (even paperbacks) just quaint and old-fashioned?

  2. nancyrawlinson

    Nah — I’m with James Gleick, author of the NY Times Op-Ed that I link to in this post — the book isn’t going anywhere. The technology to deliver them is going to be radically overhauled, though. There is always going to be a need for books, just like there will always be a need for bikes. They weren’t wiped out by the car, were they? That’s because they offer something that the car doesn’t. Similarly, physical books will always offer something that e-books can’t: solid, non-electricity dependent existence, for starters. And they might burn, but they don’t crash.

  3. I certainly hope you’re right. It’d be a shame. I’m not so sure that music on CD will survive the digital age, however.

  4. The future all seems rosy except for the part about the writers getting paid per download. We can see how well that’s all worked out for musicians with illegal music downloads.

  5. nancyrawlinson

    Good point, Lily — but just because no one has yet worked out the right system doesn’t mean there can’t be one….and doesn’t iTunes now account for more music sales than all the physical CD stores combined?

  6. Interesting topic. I can’t really decide if the Internet is the enemy or not. I think ignoring the Internet wouldn’t be a good idea for writers as some of those articles suggest. At the same time, I have faith in books as objects – not just as text that can be funneled into any medium or viewing apparaturs. The book as an object has power and heft; whereas the Internet (or my computer) does not possess that power.

  7. nancyrawlinson

    I agree, Vince — physical books DO have power and heft that a computer screen is never going to match. It’s just not the same physical experience, never will be — that’s why books will always exist in some form, I think.

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