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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Moneyguy, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 12:42pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    discojohnson, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 12:44pm


    boo hoo their model doesn't work. guess we should pass legislation to protect every business model made before 1980. change is inevitable. adapt or die.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Dave, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Books

    I have to agree with you there. Any business that can't keep up with progress should get out of the way. We should not coddle them, just because they made money in the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    LetterHead, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 12:56pm

    Always a place for books

    I think there will always be a market out there for printed books. Granted, the market might turn into a more niche market than what it used to be, but it will still be profitable enough for publishing houses and authors to stick around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Intergalactic Hussy, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    Paper? What is paper?

    E-Books here we come...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    derfaust, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 1:32pm

    oh yeah.....'paper'

    isnt that what you use you wipe your butt?.....i tried using ones and zeros, but that left a rash.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Just One Guy, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 4:18pm


    Following Kevin Kelly's fascinating Wired article last month

    Mike, is it me, or the original article was in the New York Times and not in Wired?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Sci-Fi Fan, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 4:23pm

    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).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 5th, 2006 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Wired

    Mike, is it me, or the original article was in the New York Times and not in Wired?

    Whoops. You're right. I just associate Kelly with Wired... fixed now. Thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 5:25pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    dude, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 5:49pm

    Current State of Book Publsihing

    have any of you been to Barnes and Nobles lately???

    i don't know WHAT you would call the stuff they have in the first 1/3 of the store right after the entrance, but BOOKS??? that they are not...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Celes, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 5:59pm

    Re: A distinction that should be made

    I think even reference books aren't in as much danger as it seems. A great number of companies require their employees to have quick access to information when they aren't near a computer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    bruce, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 6:25pm

    Always a place for great content!

    Great content will always be in demand.
    Sustainable businesses and their models will evolve
    accommodating readers needs. This change will stimulate minds as well as business models...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Hurk, Jun 5th, 2006 @ 6:48pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Moneyguy, Jun 6th, 2006 @ 8:50am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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