A couple of recent reports indicate that traditional publishing is now well past its Napster moment, where digital disruption and new business models threatened to drop-kick the industry into extinction. In fact, as reported in Forbes, mainstream publishers seem to be raking in more dough than ever, and in an era when bonuses for bankers and corporate bosses are a subject for vitriolic condemnation, the new big bonus beneficiaries appear to be book editors.
As per the [easyazon-link asin=”B00FMIFR26″ locale=”us”]more extended analysis[/easyazon-link] from Forbes contributor David Vinjamuri, the trends that have made the new publishing ecosystem a boon for, not the bane of, traditional publishers are as follows. The big houses started signing up their self-published supposed rivals on the indie bestseller lists in droves. The indie authors, meanwhile, proved anything but dogmatic purists about shunning the embraces of Mammon, and met them halfway. The net effect was an overall increase in book sales, albeit at the cost of downward pressure on book pricing; but publishers also learned to apply savvy discounting to sustain business volume and keep the money rolling in. E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” is just the poster child for the entire tendency.
The Apple price-fixing case, however detrimental to the reputations of the major publishing houses, may also have represented an ultimately beneficial watershed for the industry. Unable to hold back the tide of digital disruption through cartels, publishing houses have had to learn to go with the flow, and instead have become strong swimmers. After all, if Waterstones can learn to survive and thrive alongside Amazon, as a recent Guardian article suggests, major publishers certainly can.
And to confirm this, we have another report in The Bookseller declaring record volumes [no pun intended] of business for publishers in the runup to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair commencing later this week. Barring the usual pre-show hype, this certainly does not sound like an industry facing an existential crisis. A pity the same can’t be said of traditional independent bookstores.