Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Year End Update on the State of Publishing

Publishing like all business has been hurt by the failing economy and cautious buyers. No major publisher has failed, but many are downsizing.

The final numbers aren't in for the Christmas book buying season, but many authors and publishers ran a word-of-mouth campaign to remind people that books make good presents. Most booksellers reported poor sales but not so poor as expected. The only winners appear to be Amazon and Walmart.


Ebooks continue to be the growth sector of the publishing industry. The figure many conglomerate publishers quote is a 400% growth.

Ebook hardware, software, and publisher translation into formats and ebook sites continue to expand. The incredible increase in the use of the Apple iPhone and iTouch as ebook readers is the big surprise.

Amazon's failure to add a new version of the Kindle as well as their failure to have enough manufactured after Oprah touted its reader has made it falter as the front-runner in the ebook hardware race.

Sony's ereader and Apple ereader software companies like Stanza and ScrollMotion have taken advantage of this weakness by going after readers and publishers. Sony advertised widely during the Christmas season, and its reader is now available at Target, Sam's Clubs, and Borders.

Apple iPhones sales have increased almost 29% in the last three months.

Fictionwise, the ebook distributor, has also moved into the Apple ebook arena by offering books for the iPhone.

Some pundits believe we are now at the "tipping point" where ebooks will finally gain a decent reader percentage.

A number of different hardware readers are slated to be unveiled next year.


The final word isn't out about the survival of many indie bookstores after a slow Christmas season.

Borders' stock, in the meantime, has fallen so far in price that the book chain is ripe for a take over or a take over and liquidation. Bankruptcy and/or liquidation would cause massive collateral damage among publishers who wouldn't be paid for books in Borders supply chain.


In genre fiction, the book sale numbers are still good, particularly in romance and urban fantasy

The rest of the industry has flat or falling numbers with the exception of some megabestsellers.


Houghton Mifflin seems to be imploding from within. They announced that they were no longer buying books, then a number of major players in the company were fired or quit.

Other major publishers have been downsizing staff. Several have reorganized.

Agents who have blogged on the subject believe that there is still a market for new books, but that publishers will go for the tried-and-true in subject and authors.


When things get rough in the book business, fingers are pointed at used books. Already, we've seen the subject covered in the "NY Times" and trade blogs of various sorts.

Essentially what we have now is a system feeding on itself like the calico cat and the gingham dog. Few who provide content (publishers and writers) will win, and the reader will lose in the long term because of the loss of writers and books.


So far, my guesses for the future of publishing remain accurate. Ebooks are slowly moving to center stage in the publishing world while brick and mortar stores are in deep trouble. Amazon remains healthy.

In the coming months, we'll see if bookstores, indie and chain, can survive for another year, or if this Christmas season was their death knell.


I will report publishing news on this blog to keep you up to date on what is happening in the world of publishing so stay tuned, and I hope to do another "State of Publishing" report in June.

Fasten your seatbelt because publishing is heading into major turbulence.



I'm returning to my once or twice a week blog schedule now.

If you'd like to have the blog delivered to you through email, send a blank email to ByerlyWriting-subscribe@yahoogroups.com .

I am always open to writing or publishing questions. Send them to me at marilynnbyerly @ aol.com.

1 comment:

Kim Smith said...

Very nice blog! and thank you for this great post. I appreciate anything that keeps us informed on the state of the industry.