For starters, the Vancouver Sun has an interesting piece that looks at the shifts brought about by Amazon’s Kindle and e-reader strategy, summarizing the issues facing the publishing industry at the moment. Amazon’s loss-leader strategy vs. agency pricing come in for discussion, as well as the possible effects of the DoJ antitrust lawsuit. It does seem to favor the publishing-industry side of things just a bit, though:
While the lawsuit sounds like good news for consumers, it’s possible it could be detrimental for publishers and authors who could be forced to sell their products for even lower prices to compete with Amazon.
“We hope it doesn’t lower prices, because that would harm revenues for publishers — and by extension authors — and we’re going to end up without any books,” [associate publisher of Arsenal Pulp Press and president of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia Robert] Ballantyne said. “With retail [business] crashing, publishers don’t need the lower prices.”
The more book prices are cut, consumer expectations for cheap books increase and book publishing becomes unsustainable, [Vancouver publisher Douglas & McIntyre chief operating officer Jesse] Finkelstein said.
The article also covers the examples of some self-publishing authors who have been able to make a decent living from their work, though is careful to point out that the huge successes are the exception, not the rule.
Meanwhile, author Peter Nowak recently talked with Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s VP of Kindle content. Grandinetti observed that publishers need to be thinking about how to stay relevant in today’s world:
“The question is not, will reading become increasingly digital, that seems very likely. The question then becomes for the people who add value and try to be useful to authors and readers – and that includes publishers and booksellers – how do you evolve being useful in a digital world? … Nobody in publishing was thinking about whether their authors needed a Twitter feed five or 10 years ago, but it’s probably something they’re thinking a lot about now. Publishers will have to explore how to listen to authors, observe what sells books and find a way to adapt and be useful in that scenario.”
Grandinetti adds that it’s great that authors are getting more choices now, more options in how to publish than just to submit it to a traditional publishing house. He also points out that most people who buy the Kindle often buying three to four times more books afterward, and find that they are “recapturing minutes of the day for reading” that they did not have before—so reading at least does have a future, even if publishers are having trouble finding the way to reach it.
We’re living in an interesting time for the publishing industry. Maybe in a few years, after all the legalities have been thrashed out and publishers have at last been forced to adapt or die, we’ll see things start to settle down. Or maybe not. Either way, there’s a lot of uncertainty going around right now, and I wonder whether we’ll think things are better or worse in five years or so?