The reports of publishing’s death are greatly exaggerated (to paraphrase Mark Twain who would undoubtedly have had something snarky to say about all the premature wakes for the industry). Those of us who have to read all the blogs and publishing articles and who have made business gossip into an art form have been nattering on about how bad things are for sometime now. Empirical evidence supports the hearsay, of course. There have been a lot of layoffs by the big trade houses in response to losses on the balance sheets, and the worldwide recession, the fact that no one has quite figured out the role of e-books, and the struggles of the print media in general would lead one to believe that the patient is gasping his last breaths.
But, I think that’s a limited and needlessly dark view to take about a business that’s been around since Gutenberg rolled out his printing press at the 1439 Frankfurt Book Fair. At the risk of sounding hopelessly Candide-like, my feeling is that having survived plagues, revolutions, world wars, and the publication of Moby Dick, publishing should be able to survive the current economic downturn as well. I can’t imagine a world without books and I bet you can’t either.
To some extent books have always been a luxury. In the
In the first three months of the year, our agency has sold about 25 books, a few of those for pretty hefty advances, and even as those sales were going through, we were hearing that last rites had been administered to the dying publishing business. I think that like the Sicilian widow in Moonstruck, publishing will soon (well, as soon as they figure out how to mend their broken business models) get up off the death bed and start cooking again.
But I’m sure a lot of people disagree…