On the Future of Novels
Book publishing is undergoing a tremendous transformation as the world goes digital. Some people are predicting the end of the novel (not a new prediction). As an author and as a librarian, Ed has a unique perspective on the state of the industry, which he elaborates here:
The publishing industry certainly is changing, and more and more rapidly, too. The problem is, as Google and Amazon and various other players all introduce new technologies and business models, and the established (“New York”) publishers try to adjust or cling to their traditional business models, no one knows what the future will look like.
Some trends of the last few decades are continuing: bricks-and-mortar stores are becoming fewer, midlist authors are having a tougher and tougher time making a living from publishing their works, profit margins are under attack, too many books are chasing too few readers, the audience is growing (ever-greater population) but becoming more shallow (an ever-smaller percentage of that growing audience habitually reads book-length printed narratives for pleasure), and ever more formats of storytelling and other pastimes are competing for scant leisure entertainment time in ever-faster lives.
I frankly don’t know what the future is. As a railway baron of Canada’s past once famously remarked, “How should I know? My balls aren’t crystal.” I do think that all novelists (and editors, and publishers, and booksellers, and librarians) can no longer afford not to pay attention to the ongoing changes. Life is a journey, not a destination, and so is any literary career. If we just wait and see, changes will happen to us. If we participate, we can at least play a part in deciding where we go over the falls. :}February 8th, 2010
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