Quick answer: nothing! And yet, not too long ago, everyone predicted that books were about to die. Now, they all seem to talk about what a great future books have: ebooks, physical books, publishers, what should be done, what is being done and generally, ‘how-the-world-has-changed!’
Just as there is the ‘state of the union’ speech, it seems that there even mass media is now talking about the ‘state of the book market’. On a single day, I came across three relevant articles; “The reported decline of the ebook has been greatly exaggerated” (The Metro), “Some say publishing is in trouble: they are completely wrong” (The Guardian) and the announcement of an “All-new monthly literary prize: for self-published authors” (also The Guardian).
So, just what is going on with the book market, and why are people suddenly discussing books again? (not that I’m complaining, mind you!)
Here are my conclusions from these articles:
- Books are a hot subject. Despite the hype about no one reading books anymore, there are more than enough readers for everybody.
- However, things are changing: as the head of UK Penguin admitted, they are more interested in merchandising products around bestsellers and expanding the scope of their business beyond publishing.
- Traditional publishers are putting more emphasis on matching personal preferences with books, so that they can find the perfect match between what people want and what they are printing.
- Traditional publishers hate risk even more than before. They are more concerned about securing releases with big sales, so they will reject authors who break a genre’s “rules”, even if they have something interesting to say, for fear of failure. Of course, they will jump to sign on any Indie author who seems to rise above the slush pile, much like record companies will elbow each other for the next hot Indie band on YouTube. The Indie scene, then, is becoming a sort of arena to ween out any losers. Winners can expect to be reached by agents and publishers with little effort on their part.
- To quote from one of the articles, “Independent book stores are closing, but it has never been a better time for browsers.” Which means that this is a great time for self-publishers authors, especially those who know how to take advantage of the Internet.
- To quote from another article, “ebook buyers still ‘fetishise’ the printed form, perhaps more than ever now that our books are more ephemeral, and we buy our favourite books as treasured objects”. Put simply, people buy ever more ebooks, compared to hard copies.
- Finally, after years of looking down on Indie authors, even the Guardian now admits that “DYI publishing gains respectability… self-published books accounted for one in five of the 80m ebooks purchased in 2013“. I suspect the number is actually much higher, but even if these numbers are accurate, they point to a great change in the industry (by the way, check out the literary prize mentioned in the article. It looks interesting, and I like the fact that it will be repeated every month!)
Did I miss something? What are your thoughts on the subject?