The future of the book does not mean the death of print or the overtaking of digital. The change will provide and force everyone in the publishing world to rethink where we are heading and were we want to be as well as looking to the consumer as a guide. The culture, business models and consumer experience will change for the better. New devices will continue to be developed, but that doesn’t mean people are abandoning print altogether. Consumers will choose what medium is best for the content they want to consume and it will continue to change as the consumer moves through life. The main point is that the publishers and others involved need to be willing to move with the changes as well. It’s a creative industry and it will have its up and down. What will keep everyone going is their passion for writing, reading and publishing. We all need to look at the change as opportunities to grow and become better.
The book culture is no longer about the publishers being in the driver seat. It’s becoming more personalized and it’s the consumers who are pushing the future (Leddy, 2010). With the growing technology within publishing, the consumer is able to tailor their reading and buying habits in the way that reflects their interest (Leddy, 2010). What I mean by this is, that with the consumers buying books online, eBooks and apps. Their buying habits are used to filter through the many books that get published each year. Consumers are now able to find what they want and when they want it with a click of a button. More and more the consumers are pointing the way, using the devices and reading books how they want to, whether that’s in print, on a e- reader, or tablet. Consumers will not ignore publishers and critics in the industry altogether and only refer to online content. They will look to a publishing house when needed, publishers are still respected and they have a brand that consumers trust when it comes to certain books. Publishers will need to adapt to this change now that they are no longer the driving force. They need to listen to what the consumers want and look at the habits of their consumers. Then update their strategies to better fit this change. Publishers who look at this change as the end of print won’t last in this book culture.
Publishing houses and its role has changed over the years and I do believe it will continue to change. They are no longer seen as the ones who authors are looking to, to get signed to anymore. Self-publishing has changed that. Their roles of holding a brand and editing are still vital but there have been cut backs to editorial staff and staff in other parts of the publishing house (Stropes, 2013). Authors are no longer looking to a publishing house as their only option of getting published. There has been a rise in self-publishing (Flood, 2014). If a publisher doesn’t pick up an author’s proposal they always have the option of going the self-publishing route. I think that self-publishing will continue to take off as in the next few years. Self-publishing offers authors more control on the design, publishing dates, and marketing. Publishers need to not look at self-publishing as a threat in losing out on signing a big book but instead see it as an opportunity. Traditional publishers still have something to offer an author; they just need to resell themselves to authors out there. Hybrid authors can offer a publishing house something they would have thought to pass on. Traditional publishers are able to reach a wider audience that some good self-published books can’t. It’s somewhat of a win-win situation. The author still has control of their digital content but the publishers are able to use their strength in the knowledge of print production, marketing and distribution to reach out to a wider audience for the author (Stropes, 2013). If publishers are not grabbing onto these opportunities that are present through this digital change, the life of a once known publishing house doesn’t look too great right now. Within the trade book publishing companies, it’s currently ‘The Big Five’, but soon I think someone will be bought out and that ‘Five’ will shrink. Marketing in publishing does not seem to be the vital role that is taken care of in house. More and more marketing is out sourced; it’s not what it used to be. For example, authors are now promoting their books through their social media to get their readers excited about buying it and what’s to come, instead of going on book tours. The publishing game is changing and it’s changing quick. It’s not all for the worst, I think it’s a wake up call to publishers that they need to better know what their consumers want. Just like how the music and movie industry have changed to better adopt the needs of their consumers. I see their roles becoming more of an editorial quality check, print production, branding and using that strength to get authors to publish with them rather than self-publish. Publishing houses can use their strengths and restructure it to be their selling point to authors and work with the authors.
With the digital revolution, there is a new option for writers to share their creativity, self- publishing. A concern that comes up with this, is the amount writers are selling/offering their work for. One critic says that this digital revolution will not ‘open up a new era of creativity’ but instead it will cause writers to work for minimum or free and writing will not longer be a profession (Morrison, 2011). I agree with Morrison that the revolution is causing a decrease in pay for writers in advances and royalties. The income might not be as high as what it used to be where advances were 50k (Bradley, 2011), but self-publishing is offering writers an alternative to being published traditionally. It a new channel for them to get their work out there and get a following started. If a publishing house won’t accept their work, this provides a second option. There will be changes to come with the income of authors. If we look to the music industry as a precedent to how musicians are still making money, we see that they were able to find a solution within the pricing of things. The success of the iTunes store shows that consumers are willing to pay for content if it’s priced fairly (Bradley, 2011). Advances to an author are important, it’s their income while they continue to write and finish their book. We do live in a world were a lot of content we read and consume is now free. Piracy has hit publishing hard just like it did to the music industry. Consumers will only pay for what they think is fair and will figure out ways to get the content they want for the price they want, which sometime ends up being free. Like the music industry this phase will pass through as the publishing industry rebuilds their business models. New devices, apps and programs will start to appear as the publishers and authors find creative ways to reach their consumers. I think that more publishers will start to bundle their sales as a way to reach out and get more sales. These are only some ideas. Consumers are willing to pay for content but publishers just need to figure out that right fit to compete with Amazon, Apple and Google. Advances and royalties may go back to the numbers they use to be, but I think they will slowly get closer once publishers find their business model.
I do not see books nonexistent in the future. Physical books will not disappear altogether; there is always a need for them. What might change in the coming future is where these books sit in bookstores. The change from print to digital has affected bookstores quite a bit. When Amazon came into the picture, brick and mortar bookstores started to struggle and they now need to restructure. Bookstores are closing down or reducing the number of titles they have in stock (Nguyen, 2014), especially smaller retailers. Some bookstores are rebranding and no longer limiting themselves to just carrying books. Indigo for example, is Canada’s largest book retail chain (Nguyen, 2014) has been rebranding themselves. They are now a book, gift and specialty toy retailer, incorporating home décor next to their bookshelves. A consumer can walk into an Indigo and walk out with pillows and stationary on top of their purchased book. Indigo is betting hard on books and the company is looking to be more than just a bookseller. They are in the midst of transforming into the world’s first cultural department store. Within an Indigo store, there are now electronic kiosks that sell Kobos, tech accessories and more, all in hope to draw in more customers. Indigo is trying hard to survive in the sinking fall of bookstores and I think they are heading in the right direction. I see bigger book retailers doing the same, looking to other ways to draw in consumers aside from just the books they carry. The smaller bookstores are not able to do the same transformation, instead I see them becoming more tailored and will carry a selection of niche books. Bookstores will become more specialized in certain books and have an image and feel that a customer will go back to because they know they will walk out with what they are looking for. Shopping online is a convenience, but sometime you just don’t know what you’re looking for and that’s when browsing in a bookstore offers a different experience to online shopping. Stores will continue to close down as retails figure out how to restructure, but I am certain that they won’t all disappear.
The future will not be a one-way shift from print to digital. It will be a mix of both in the publishing world. Those who will be successful are the publishers who are able to restructure their business models in a way that takes advantage of both print and digital. At the end of the day, books will always be around as long as there are book lovers out there and with them writers are needed as well. The consumer will continue to lead the path of this transition in publishing, writers and publishers have to be flexible will the changes and adapt along the way.
Leddy, C. (2010). The changing future of books. Writer (Kalmbach Publishing Co.), 123(4), 8-9.
Stropes, E. (2013, March 21). Opportunities in self-publishing. Retrieved from http://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/3/21/opportunities-in-self- publishing.html#.VCG5lS5dUdI
Bradley, J. (2011, August 25). Are books dead?. Retrieved from http://cityoftongues.com/2011/08/25/are-books-dead/
Flood, A. (2014, June 13). Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year. Retreieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/13/self-publishing-boom-lifts-sales- 18m-titles-300m
Morrison, E. (2011, August 22). Are books dead, and can authors survive?. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/22/are-books-dead-ewan-morrison
Nguyen, L. (2014, June 26). Indigo still a ‘huge believer in books,’ says CEO Reisman. Retrieved from http://www.citynews.ca/2014/06/26/indigos-core-business-still-remains-books-ceo-reisman/
– Karen La, Fall 2014