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Is traditional publishing endangered?


I went to a bookstore recently and went home with over 12 used books and not one of the books were over $5.20.

I wish I could be so lucky. Books in Australia (where I live at least) are $22 most days. It's an utter rip off, considering I can get the same book if I lived in the UK for more than 50% off that price. With free shipping. Sometimes days before release date.

Australia is hopeless when it comes to books.
On the 1984 thing...

Yes, Amazon deleted all copies from every buyer. Someone had uploaded the book who did not have the rights to do so. Amazon sorta panicked, and mass-removed all copies.

People freaked out, and Amazon knew they had made a major mistake.

Worse, a college student sued - he had put notes for a class in his copy, and those notes were deleted. They eventually settled with him out of court for $150,000, additionally agreeing that they would never again remove a book in that manner.

Since then, they have removed books from their sales platform for various reasons; but they have not removed them from people who already bought them. As an extra safeguard, it's worth noting that you CAN back those books up on your computer, or a CD, or some other medium. ;)

But it's pretty sure that Amazon will think long and hard before removing a book again. One, under DMCA, they are not required to do so - just to take down offending material as soon as they are notified. Two, now that the word of the first settlement is out, better believe there would be hundreds, if not thousands of people lining up for their $150k for removing "their writing" along with a book if it was pulled. Would be very expensive for Amazon, both in public relations and in dollars.
On the industry...

Borders is toast. Not because of ebooks - their fall was because of poor management. Ebooks helped nail the coffin lid down, because nobody was dumb enough to buy a brick and mortar bookstore when it's obvious brick and mortar bookstores are on their way out. But the actual failing was internal management errors.

B&N is slashing hundreds of thousands of books from it's stores next month. They're replacing those shelves with toys, games, and other things they can actually, y'know, sell during the holiday season. Added to the losses from Borders returns, the B&N mass return this Fall will hurt many publishers very badly.

We might see some very big, very well known publishers close up shop over the next year or two. Even more likely is that we'll see a number of imprints close down. Borders gone plus B&N slashing shelf space and returning that many books for credit is a big deal. We're talking many millions of dollars in losses.

In the longer term - over the next year to three years - we're looking at a much greater percent of book buying moving online. Ebooks are already huge - the AAP places the number at about 17%, but only includes the top 16 publishers for ebooks, while contrasting that with the top several hundred for print books. In other words, they're NOT including over a third of all ebooks sold; the actual ebook percent is probably closing on 25% or so.

Borders closing will accelerate that.
Next holiday season, with new ereaders coming out from Amazon and predictions of $99 ereaders, will accelerate that.

I expect fiction sales to hit the balance point early next year, with half of all fiction books being sold as ebooks. And again, that's very bad for large publishers. They have huge, sometimes decade-or-longer contracts for warehousing, shipping, and manufacturing that they simply can't dump fast enough. Some are simply not going to be able to make the transition. Some will fold.

Guys, there are something like two THOUSAND publishing companies surveyed in the recent BISG survey.

Yeah, some of them are going to fold over the next few years. Probably a bunch. Some will be very big. It will suck a lot if your book is drawn into the black hole of a publisher bankruptcy. A lot of savvy writers are planning to self publish in the interim, while things settle down - at least for some of their books. Think about it as diversifying your portfolio in a rough economy. ;)

But is "traditional publishing" as a whole endangered? No. There are a lot of publishers. Some will fail; most will not. Other publishers will step up to fill voids left by those which collapse. Life - and publishing - will go on. This is just a transition. It's not the end of the world. ;)

(Now if you want to ask "are brick and mortar bookstores endangered?" the answer might be very different...)
I am so torn on this topic.

On one hand, I am enough of an environmentalist to realize the amount of paper saved could have a huge impact; however, I have no estimation as to the natural resources involved in developing all of the E-Readers and supporting devices. I also love the simplicity and ease of the E-Reader. We have a Kindle at home and LOVE it. We use it for all the books we are unsure about or don't want to own as part of our physical collection. As of right now, we probably have 50 books on the device and we also use it religiously to play Scrabble. Also also...there is a ton of savings involved in the long term. Just on those 50 books, we've saved at least $4-500, more than enough to buy the Kindle and then some.

But, I grew up an avid reader and I worship my book collection. I love being surrounded by books, enjoying the cover art, smelling the paper, you name it. The ownership (physical not possessive) of a book is something an e-reader can simply not replace. But how many others feel the same as I?

I do see a trend of bookstores closing and Kindle and Nook sales increasing. I don't think it will ultimately replace the hardcopy, just reduce that market dramatically...if it hasn't already.

I agree with you here, ownership of a book is paramount to my life.
As kid I grew up with stacks of books I could not walk around my room with out passing one of many, many bookshelves it got to the point where my dad forced me to pick only my 100% favs and sell the rest at a yard sale. It broke my heart! Today I have books stored all over the place, stacked along the walls, in suitcases, under the bed you name it.

Nothing can replace a real book in my eyes, but I fear that in another 5 years or so you won't be able to find them... regulated to libraries as relics of an era long past :'(
until they are gone totally I refuse to buy a device to read my book on, some call me silly but it is my own personal form of protest.

Philip Overby

Article Team
Maybe I've said this before, but one day books will be like records, 8-tracks, cassettes, BETA Max, VHS, and every other outdated way of listening to music. These e-readers and the internet have expanded whole new ways for readers to read, just like MP3s have changed the way people listen to music. Eventually, homes probably won't have TVs either. Just giant computer monitors hoooked up to internet. We've already seen the "home phone" go by the way side in favor of cell phones, and cell phones go by the way side in lieu of "mobile devices."

Books will be like scrolls or writs of papyrus. Fahrenheit 451 is possible, but it will be so because of technology. I don't think this will happen in the next 5 years, but the closing of all these book stores and the "quaintness" of used book stores is a sign of th e of the times.

This coming from a person that owns thousands of paper books. And someone that loves his Kindle.



I believe that digital book publishing will grow massively and that our wonderful hardbacks and paperbacks will decrease. The pleasure of owning a physical printed book is up against the sheer convenience and accessibility of the e reader format. Also a generation is growing up that is totally at home with all things digital. People aged 40 years plus are a unique generation, the ones who rode the wave of change. They remember the first computers used at work, before microsoft windows, a little monitor and green text run in DOS. They remember the launch of video players and CDs. The last thirty years has been at least as great a period of historic change as the steam driven Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era.

My generation hitting 20 now grew up in this era of change and are very fast to embrace new tech based things. I hope that we will always have printed books, bookshops and bookshelves. But they will definately be less common in 30 years time. In fact something of a rarity. Like the guy you know who avidly collects Vinyl records from ebay or the person that has racks of compact discs in tall towers in his living room.
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I believe, within about 10 years, most people will be using e-readers instead of paper books. And that paper books will be harder and harder to buy. I think within 50 there won't be books anymore, except in the used, rare, and collectable shops. Consider the music industry. Used to be everywhere you went there would be music stores. Not so much anymore. Most people listen to music on some kind of electronic player rather than putting an actual CD in a player. I download most of my music, and the CDs I buy are immediately ripped and the CD put away in a box. most folks are doing this.

I just LOVE my Kindle. I move usually about once a year - across country. I also own about 3000 books (I've given away about a third of my collection, or I'd have more). Every time I'd move, I would get the urge to read a book that I'd already bought and was sitting in a storage room somewhere. So I go buy another copy. By the end of the year, when I have to move again, I end up with four or five boxes of books that I have the store somewhere - and the process begins again.

Now I have a Kindle, though, so I only have the two boxes of books I started with - and the extra box I got before I bought the Kindle. But wherever I go, I can take my entire book collection with me. If I don't have a book I need to read, I can quickly download it, even if it's in the middle of the night or in the middle of a blizzard.

Most of the inconveniences mentioned at the beginning of this topic don't apply with the Kindle. It doesn't have a brightly lit screen, and it's just like reading on paper. I like to read in bed too, and with a paper book, I always had to sit in one position so I could hold the book open and turn pages. With the Kindle, I can prop it up on something and only have to free up a finger occasionally so I can turn pages. Or I can hold it like a book. As far as being fragile - not so much. I've dropped my Kindle more than once and it's still alive. I think I can probably destroy it one of these days - but if I do I can trade it in on another one and get my whole collection back on it within a day. I also spent extra to get the holder. That kind of destroyed the bonus lightness factor (the kindle is lighter than a paperback, so holding it is much less tiring). The holder makes it heavier - but it also comes with a light and extra protection for my clumsy self. :)

There are drawbacks. When looking through my collection to decide which book to read next, I could, with written books, pull out each book, look at the cover, and read the summary on the back. I could figure out which book in a series I was about to read. Not so much with a Kindle. There's no summary on the back, and you have to open the file to see the cover - which is in black and white.

The cost savings... I think that's rather neutral. SOME books sold are somewhat less than the hardback or paperback, but most are the same price. I've purchased two that were considerably more expensive than the hardback version, while the books had been out in paperback for years. On the other hand, some publishers are starting to put their older works out for free in electronic format. Primarily to get you to buy the author's newer works, true, but it's a great way to convert an old library like mine into electronic format on the cheap. It all depends on the whim of the publisher, not the author, unless they're going the self-publishing route, as many are starting to.

Which brings up another two-edged sword. Some books simply are not available in electronic format, nor will they be available. A lot of the old books you can get for cheap on eBay or used at Amazon aren't going to be on the Kindle any time soon. But on the other hand, some pro authors are getting their rights to reprint those books back and they can self-publish them. Or, you can resort to the ever-popular pirating route.

If you're looking to buy the classics, though, those can be had for a song, or usually free.

There are a lot of self-published authors out there now, thanks to electronic publishing. That can be good and bad. On the one hand, there are a lot of good authors out there who can't get published in the dog-eat-dog publishing world, but thanks to electronic publishing, you can find these guys. On the other hand, there are a lot of bad authors who can't get published because they suck - and they're going the self-publishing route too. So you have to wade through a lot of crap to find the gems. But the gems are out there, and they're out-pricing the publishing houses by miles.
One thing that has not been touched upon in this discussion is the role of Amazon - I believe they will have had a big impact on the survival of bookstores too, its just so convenient for many people to buy online these days instead of going to a brick bookstore.

I personally don't think books are immediately in danger of becoming obsolete its just that we are changing the way we buy our books. Thats not to say that Kindle won't increase its share of the reading market, but there are plenty of people who still prefer paper books (even the lower quality pod books) to an electronic reader.

Personally I don't own an electronic reader and don't intend to, because I can't see the point of wasting money on something that needs batteries to maintain my reading pleasure and I don't enjoy reading from a screen as much as paper (it strains my eyes)


Graham, you will be appalled to know that the Kindle will not strain your eyes. It's not backlit and there's no glare on the screen, so it's no more strain on your eyes than a paper book.

I do think Amazon is the number one reason bookstores are going out of business. It's so much easier to go online and order the book you want than to drive around to bookstores hoping they'll have it. Browsing is limited, though.
You really need to get your hands on an e-ink device like the Kindle. The display does not rely on backlight for display and has a matte texture so light coming on it doesn't glare. As far as batteries go, the Kindle and other devices based on the same tech only use power when turning the page. Maintaining the image on screen requires no power whatsoever, making it a passive display.

The Nook is a different story, it is a LCD tablet and needs power to maintain the display. There are some screens that are called transflective, and reflect the ambient light off a mirror behind the screen so in direct sunlight the display would be readable. This makes an active display like LCD require less power to maintain the image on screen.

grahamguitarman said:
One thing that has not been touched upon in this discussion is the role of Amazon - I believe they will have had a big impact on the survival of bookstores too, its just so convenient for many people to buy online these days instead of going to a brick bookstore.

I personally don't think books are immediately in danger of becoming obsolete its just that we are changing the way we buy our books. Thats not to say that Kindle won't increase its share of the reading market, but there are plenty of people who still prefer paper books (even the lower quality pod books) to an electronic reader.

Personally I don't own an electronic reader and don't intend to, because I can't see the point of wasting money on something that needs batteries to maintain my reading pleasure and I don't enjoy reading from a screen as much as paper (it strains my eyes)


On Galleycat.com a few days back...

Self-published author John Locke has inked a deal with Simon & Schuster. The first self published author to sell a million eBooks will let the major publisher handle sales and distribution of the first print run of his books.

Locke will continue to publish the eBooks and will produce the print books under his imprint John Locke Books, while Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution of the physical editions of the Donovan Creed novels. Locke’s agent, Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, handled the deal. The titles will go on sale in February 2012.

Locke had this statement: “There are many paths from author to reader … and any path that puts the reader first will be successful. This agreement represents an exciting departure from the norm, and I applaud Simon & Schuster’s incredible vision, and their willingness to provide a vehicle that allows all readers traditional access to my books.”


Locke sold 1 million ebooks on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. Think about what an author of this "limited" success has just done? King, Patterson, Clancy etc will all demand their ebooks rights because they know they have the leverage to do this. The entire paradigm was just rocked, hard. Look for writers to start demanding ebook rights going forward. They won't let a "new little guy" get 70% of his ebook royalties while they get 17.5%. I'm not saying this is the death knell or final nail but this just signaled a massive change. S&S is a big 6 publisher, the others no have no choice but to follow.
The Locke/S&S deal actually gets back to the original question. This deal, if it sets a precedent, could be *very* damaging to fiction publishers.

Ebooks will be over 50% of book sales soon, and are likely to continue growing.
Locke is not THAT big a "name" in fiction writing. There are many more popular writers.
What happens when King, Patterson, Koontz, Roberts, and other top Name authors ask for the same deal?
They self publish their new ebooks - cutting publishers out of a market which will soon be the majority of all fiction sales? And don't forget - these books are the "super-sellers", the products which make up much of the profit margin for publishers.

If this sort of deal sets a precedent - and I find it hard to imagine it will not - it could literally spell bankruptcy for some major imprints.

I don't think any other single event in the last two years (except maybe the releases of the Kindle 3 and iPad) have been a bigger threat to publishers than this deal.