The end is not nigh

In “The death of books has been greatly exagerated,” Lloyd Shepherd looks at the anecdotal evidence many publishing doomsayers present and notes that it’s not as bad as it seems.

What does all this data add up to? Hardly an industry in its death throes, so one must ask why there are so many long faces about the place. Let’s not be naive. These are times of massive change, and change is never, ever comfortable. The retail sector worries publishers and authors alike; in the past year, publishers have lost Woolworth, Borders and British Bookshops as sales channels and, as Kate Pool from the Society of Authors says: “The increasing dominance of Amazon (as retailer, increasingly as publisher, as owner of the Kindle, etc) is potentially very worrying.”This, combined with the emergence of digital technology, creates enormous uncertainty. It’s a fact that the transition to digital devices will mean greater efficiencies and more focus on cost and, overall, a rather less generouspublishing industry than before; a rather colder-hearted, fiercer one. The old world is fading, the new world isn’t yet in focus. When newspapers and music faced this moment, there was a significant tendency to become hugely angry that the old world in which we were all so comfortable was being “swept away”. It’s almost impossible for someone who has spent decades working in a calm, creative environment not to be enraged by the sight of American technology companies tipping everything
on its head.

But let’s not overdo things. Let’s not lose sight of the data we have, and let’s not invent data when we only have anecdotes. And finally, let’s not forget the wonders this new world opens up.

It’s an interesting and reassuring read.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

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