How Did You Handle the Death of Publishing?

By Neal Comment


Here are some of the more levelheaded responses to the death notice for book publishing that ran in New York at the beginning of the week:

Kassia Krozser, Booksquare: “Resistance to change, I believe, is more firmly entrenched in the New York publishing culture than in the publishing business as whole. If you want to blow your mind, find a listing of all the publishing houses in the United States of America. Stunning. Monoliths necessarily shift very slowly. Look beyond NYC for change, and look beyond New York to understand that this is not the end. Not even close…

“The end is only near for those who fail to grasp reality. Everyone else will find a way to make what they love most about this business work, in a way that works for them. The future of publishing is not about technology or widgets or free samples; the future of publishing is about giving readers what they want.”

Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago: “It’s a lot of who-got-fired-gossip and anecdotal hand-wringing, and a fair amount of sour grapes; exactly the kind of thing that makes me pleased to live somewhere other than New York.”

somebody at HarperStudio, after pointing out that Slate did the same story back in 1997: “What’s new about the current situation is that the same escalation in sales for the biggest titles that has enriched Dan Brown has also created exponential inflation of advances for the books in the middle of the tail—the place where most trade publishing tries to make a living… until the once-profitable middle is the worst possible place to be. And we’re left with an industry that can only do two things: gamble bigger and bigger on the next big thing and milk the backlist for all the new formats it might be worth. If this trend continues, we’ll all be the poorer for it, because the middle should be a place where we can take interesting chances without risking the farm, not a place we go to put our careers—and our corporate parents—on the line.”

Jeff Gomez, Print Is Dead: “Even though I wrote a book called Print is Dead, even I don’t think that publishing is over. Rather, it just needs to change and be willing to embrace new ideas and business models. And while the challenges the industry faces are indeed difficult, they’re hardly insurmountable.”

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic: “If any industry deserves oblivion, it’s book publishing.”

(Mind you, that last remark has rich context behind it.)