Is publishing doomed? Writer Janni Lee Simner has posted an essay to her LiveJournal looking at the idea going around “that Right Now is the moment that publishing is falling apart.” She is rather skeptical, because she’s been hearing how much better things were "5 or 10 or 15 years ago” for as long as she’s been writing—over 20 years—and doesn’t recall the state of publishing in her early years as being that much better. To hear the pundits talk, the publishing industry has always been on the verge of collapse.
Not only were those years not particularly better than those we are experiencing now, but Simner sees signs of improvements. Teenagers seem more apt to embrace reading, and there aren’t any real signs that quality has fallen off.
Aside from a new format (ebooks) and a new way for sharing recommendations (online) with the friends who’ve always shaped my reading more than reviewers, I’m not seeing the level of change, let alone collapse, that everyone seems determined to convince us we’re in the midst of. What I see the ongoing and shifting and unpredictable challenges that have always gone with being a writer. That’s all.
Simner calls this simply another iteration of “the Kids These Days phenomenon,” in which everything is always worse off now than it was in our parents’ or grandparents’ day.
Is she right? It would be nice to think so, since that would suggest that the publishing industry does have a future after all, rather than being about to collapse and go right down the tubes. I suppose time will tell. Who knows, perhaps in twenty years or so, if the publishing industry is still around but still on the verge of not being, we’ll be able to look back at these days for perspective. I wonder what the next great threat will be after e-books?