Oh No! Book Publishing Is At Risk! Or Maybe Not

from the first-things-first,-let's-freak-out dept

You had to know it was coming. Following Kevin Kelly’s fascinating Wired New York Times article last month rethinking the concept of the book in the digital age, those in the book publishing world are starting to freak out about how technology is destroying their grand old business. Both the New York Times and Toronto’s Globe and Mail are running stories about those in the book business complaining about how the internet is putting their business at risk. The NY Times piece includes some quotes from authors who clearly didn’t understand Kelly’s piece, as they suggest that it means great works of literature will be forever damaged by being mashed up with bad blogs. Of course, while all those authors fret and worry, perhaps a better place to look is a USA Today article, talking about how the author of the majority of the scripts for the TV show Babylon 5 is making a killing publishing on-demand books of Babylon 5 scripts.

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Comments on “Oh No! Book Publishing Is At Risk! Or Maybe Not”

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Moneyguy says:


Next we’ll see book and newspaper publishers suing the internet for their loss of revenue A la the recording industry. Just who they’ll sue will be an interesting exercise, but I’m sure some creative lawyer will figure that one out. Craig’s List has already been blamed for $50 Million in losses from the San Francisco Bay newspapers.

Adapting to change should be the norm for businesses wishing to stay profitable.

And that means adapting to new technologies, new distribution channels and exploring new business models instead of relying on the old saying “we’ve always done business this way.” It didn’t work for the (American) auto industry in the 1970’s and it won’t work now.

Moneyguy says:

Re: Always a place for books

I agree – and I have been purchasing more and more books lately. I have to admit to enjoying holding a book in my hands versus reading something online or on my Palm or notebook computer.

Paper has a feel to it that hasn’t yet be duplicated (if it ever will). I use my Palm all the time to keep me on schedule and plan out my day, however there is something about writing on a piece of paper that I can’t define, but gives me a sense of …satisfaction? Permanence? Not sure what it is, but I like it.

Petréa Mitchell says:

A distinction that should be made

The response to give to the worried authors quoted in the newspaper articles above is that Kelly’s article is mostly about reference books, which, because their purpose is to make information available and the net has made it possible to present information in much more varied and (sometimes) useful ways, cannot help being changed. Novels will remain novels and I expect authors will keep getting paid for them, only the distribution methods will evolve.

Sci-Fi Fan says:

Publisher's free library

Baen Books isn’t one of the publishers worried about this.

They actually put copies of some of their (recent and high profile in some cases) books online for free…


I’ve discovered a few new artists here that I really like, and of course I’ve even gone out and bought a few books based on what I read there.

Other publishers need to adapt their business models to the changing technology (hmm, that sounds like something I’ve heard on this site beofre).

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Books not dead

for quick reference, books can often be more convienient, especially if my computer is off. Also, I still oprefer to read printed matter than stuff on screens, since it can be read anywhere, this si especially true for novels. Encylopaedias, and to alesser extent dictionaries are mostly computerised now, and other refernce books are going that way, but fiction and text books are much easier on paper.

Hurk says:

Everytime a new “E-book” device comes out, or when ebooks first started appearing and when they gained more and more momentum, never did any of these actually put the slightest dent into the actual paper book market. I agree that I’d rather use wikipedia than 26+ 1200 page volumes of encyclopaedias, however, reading novels in their physical shape is by far generally preferred over reading them on an lcd screen. Simply because the pace tends to be much slower mostly due to the fact that computers and the like, as proven by independent studies, distract the reader, even the tech savvy have a slight “ADD” behavior when reading things via pc/monitor.

It’s still ridiculous of these people to be suing anyone. It’s their own fault for lack of marketing (especially for truly quality books) accompanied with an outdated business model.

Is anyone else tired of all these lawsuits?

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