Monday, December 15, 2008

more on returns, the end of this era of publishing, and our book campaign for hope and change

Thanks, Maree, for referring me to Richard Curtis's mind-blowing essay about how the publishing industry has to change. I'm gratified to see that we seem to agree on a lot. After all, Richard is a pretty dang smart guy (read the article and see why).

18 comments:

Juliana Stone said...

Wow, Moon Rat....just wow....

moonrat said...

right?! geez.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

If technology can eliminate piracy and ensure payment... nothing, (except an inability to attract eyeballs, i.e. MARKETING), will stand between writers and their audience.

This article is seminal for authors. It heralds the future. Witness - and act accordingly!

Haste yee back ;-)

Suzanne said...

stunning that the article was originally written in 1992...given that Border's may go the way of the independents, has amazon become a monopoly?

Linnea said...

Excellent essay! Playing catch-up with Amazon is going to be mighty tough.

Kerry said...

creep.E.

Ann Victor said...

No wonder Richard Curtis has such a reputation. I had seen the article before but it was good to read it again.

Christy Raedeke said...

Wow. Reading that was kind of like seeing "The Sixth Sense" for the first time; almost hard to believe the twist at the end. Amazing.

Jo said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I saw much the same thing in the music industry. Change is always scary at first but inevitable. Some people have to be dragged kicking and screaming but it's usually ok when you finally get there. Deep breath.

Justus M. Bowman said...

He's right. I would have believed he wrote it yesterday.

Precie said...

Crazy. Brilliant essay, especially considering the circumstances. Frightening in its continued relevance. Oy.

Nancy H. said...

Go through and read more of his blog. He has an uncanny knack for foretelling the trends of the publishing industry. And he's an awesome, awesome agent!!!

Dingbat said...

Wow. There are so many of these nouveau death-of-publishing articles since that fateful Wed. (I just posted about several). This one offers a pretty frustrating sense of how long change can be delayed. I know people have been saying it for years and years, but it really seems like things are going to be permanently shaken up now.

http://dingbatpublishingblog.blogspot.com/

RebuildingYear said...

I forwarded this post to my friend John, who was in publishing when this was written. He said it was spot on. He also responded to some of the points, and sent me a link to this Chronicle article on "Book ATMs," which seems one way to address point-of-need publishing.

http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3326/u-of-michigan-library-installs-atm-of-books

Nandini said...

I've read this article twice and tried to wrap my head around it (with questionable results) ... it seems to suggest that amazon/kindle etc have brought an end to the returnable consignment preorder system that was bleeding cash from publishers/authors - is that really true? Then why are we exactly where we were when this article was written? Will brick and stone booksellers like B&N survive if they don't change their policy? Would that be good for publishing? ... How can authors/publishers benefit from the new delivery system ... what about the rise of tech enabled self-publishing (currently completely amateur) posing a challenge to traditionally published books? How do other markets (Europe/Australia-Asia Pacific) handle this?

Ugh! I suddenly feel like watching “You’ve Got Mail” …

Katherine said...

This is an amazing essay -- thanks so much for posting us to it! The added commentary at the end had me exclaiming out loud.

One thing, though: I'm in IT for a living, working on software development projects. There are a lot of very enthusiastic readers amongst my colleagues, and *none* of them want anything to do with ebooks (myself included). We stare at computer monitors for at least 8, and often more than 12 hours a day, and the last thing we want to do in our spare time is look at another screen. That includes the Kindle and other readers that "don't look like computer screens." If it's got a battery, we are going to be less interested, except to hack with it.

Personally, I would be more interested in ordering physical books from a web store and having to wait a few days for delivery (maybe a bit longer if the just-in-time printing cycle just got missed and I have to wait for the next one), then get an ebook "now." I mean, I already have a couple dozen books I haven't read yet that I could read instead while I wait for the new book to arrive in the mail...

The other way that web stores have it all over the bricks-and-mortar ones is that they tend to have a better selection. I love books, but I can easily walk into one of those big-box bookstores and walk out with nothing, because they're so busy being safe with their inventory that the only books they have that I want to read are books I already own.

moonrat said...

Katherine, I feel the same. Between my job and blogging, I stare at a computer screen for at least 12 (or more often 14) hours a day. I love opening a real book on the train or on my couch. I don't love reading something, even something I'm excited about, as a Word document.

And I do think there are always going to be "fogies" like us!

Glen Akin said...

This is very, very entertaining read. And it's shocking as well, as it was written in 1992. Amazon and the Kindle are doing great, better than I expected, in fact. Better than I hoped.

The publishing industry needs to wake up and recognise its faults before it completely destroys them.

However, I think the reason this industry has lasted this long and why the Kindle won't necessary win is because eBooks are generally not preferable to paperbacks or hardcovers.

I've studied computers for as long as I can remember, graduating with a BSc in Software Engineering and furthering in a Masters in Computer Security, and I can tell you that the people still love to read books they can touch rather than electronic printed words.

Computers are great. Ebooks are useful, but the magic trapped in novels, unleashed when you read from page to page is absent from eBooks. It's hard to sit for hours reading from a computer screen.

There's also the issue of security. I know for a fact that anything that has to do with computers is not and can never be 100% secure. Piracy will always be an issue for software AND eBooks. And that is perhaps the nail in the coffin there.

The Kindle is safe now because it's not really THAT popular. By the time it gathers attention someone out there will hack its security system, and it's game over for us Authors.

But the article is still legit; things have got to change for all our sakes.