By Geoff Hoff
Everyone is talking about the death of books and of traditional publishing and publishers. We watched newspapers struggle in the wake of information readily available on the Internet, now we’re seeing publishing houses scramble in the wake of Amazon’s print-on-demand and AuthorCentral services, etc.
I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine and thought I’d share some of what we discussed with you. My friend had been in the newspaper biz and lost his job, perhaps because of the downsizing of his paper, perhaps for other reasons, and the whole thought of the possible disappearance of major publishers startles him.
I have been saddened by the diminishing of so many newspapers, especially in the area of arts coverage. But being sad about it is one thing. I also realize that I get most of my news from the Internet. As in all the other disciplines, there are papers that are thriving because they’ve embraced the new way of disseminating information rather than resisting it.
I actually can’t imagine big-time publishers all going away. The ones who don’t embrace the new way of things may go, but I personally would love to have a huge house behind me who believes in me and pushes my stuff. I am also enough of a realist (that has come late in my life, unfortunately) to know that, unless I’m Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, (or even Joe Vitale) even if they do publish me, I will have to do all the work to get the word out.
I don’t think Amazon, or any of the other such on-line services, are trying to do away with the big publishers. It would be suicide for them. What they are doing is slowly and methodically creating ways for writers to take control of their own work. Even if that work is published by one of the big guys. This, as far as I can see, is a very good thing.
And I really don’t think physical books are going away. I personally love them too much. I have walls of books in almost every room in my house. I can’t see a wall of Kindles. Wouldn’t have the same effect at all.
The old ways of doing things will have to adjust to the new, that’s all. It happened to music (is still happening to music!) and the labels are finally catching up. It is also happening to movies. Again, I don’t think most of the labels or the studios will go away, but the model will have to change for them, too. I personally resisted the whole eBook thing, but I’ve published several of my own. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t have my next book available ALSO (not exclusively) on Kindle.
Digital delivery isn’t killing books any more than photography killed paintings or television killed movies or radio killed records or MTV killed radio or Disco killed music. It all just evolves.