Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Exciting Times to be a Writer!

The world of books as we know it has turned upside down.  For those living under a rock lately, Borders is officially done.  Barnes and Noble, while not done (yet), has been in trouble very recently.  Unless they turn their strategy around, they could well be following in Borders' footsteps.  Regardless of what happens, the fall of Borders is seen as a boon to Barnes and Noble.  For now.  Folks have been saying Barnes and Noble did it right, while Borders did it wrong, but that too can change quickly.  Especially for a struggling company that received an artificial shot in the arm for business.

Further shake-ups could be likely.  Books-A-Million tried to buy out the inventory for 30 of those Borders stores, but couldn't do it in the end.  More buy-outs or attempted buy-outs will probably happen.  In the end, it will be death by attrition and survival of those who adapt to the changing times the quickest.

Some are bemoaning the future of reading, that it's the death of new writing for some reason.  Whatever will we do if we don't have books?  Well, it's never going to be that bleak.  Books have been here to stay since their inception.  Their form may change, and the opportunities for writing them may ebb and flow, but they'll remain as strong as ever.  People may lament the fact that e-books don't give them that same special feeling that "real" books do, but it's not about feelings.  It's about numbers.  And the bottom line for publishers involves numbers, not feelings.

Enough bad news.  Remember, I said it was exciting times to be a writer, and I truly believe that.  The shake-ups have only begun to begin and there's more than we could ever imagine just around the corner.

We've already seen figures for the first half of this year, and digital books are going through the roof while other forms are in decline.  The comparison between the two shows just how fast the digital revolution is happening in the world of books.

E-books are here in a big way, and they're here to stay.  Self-publishing was once looked at as nothing more than an ego-boosting outlet for hopeless hacks but is now a viable option with e-books.  More and more agencies, such as BookEnds, LLC, are coming to terms with self-publishing, and are forming strategies to adopt it into their business plan.

And many more new opportunities are springing up - new, interesting forms of publishing that until a few short years ago were completely unheard of.  One such example is University of Michigan's foray into digital publishing by serializing two novels for free on Facebook.  Interesting concept.  Whether it will take off into something viable is not really something I care to debate.  The fact that it is happening, and adding to the shake-up of the publishing world is the important part.

For a talented writer, there is always a market.  Yes, it's always going to be tough.  There will always be competition for publication and readership.  There will always be naysayers and holdouts to whatever has been tradition.  But there will always be those on the cutting edge of the industry.  Authors would do well to be a part of that.  After all, it's their future.  Our future.  And I'm happy I'm a part of it.


  1. I'm excited to see how and where the industry changes. I'm nervous, of course, but excited! For a while I was skeptical about exactly where the e-book side of the business would go, even though I couldn't deny it's eventual supremacy in the market. But I went to a bookstore the other day, found four author who have written a dozen books each, and realized I don't want to own a single physical copy of any of them. I don't have an e-reader, but when I do, I know my library will double nearly overnight.

    Then Borders collapsed (I knew it would happen back in '06 when I still worked there). Without one of the major national chains available, many people will migrate to Amazon. With that migration, many people will start to consider getting e-readers and e-books.

  2. It's been inevitable for a while now, but that's the way change works. It's slow at first, builds steam, and all of the sudden everything's different.

    I'd expect to see a complete and total revamp of the way we look at books within a year.