Monday, July 25, 2011

The State of the Printed Word

I don't typically write about my job, and I won't go into specifics, but the fact is that it's a nerve-wracking time to be in the publishing industry.  The past couple of weeks have feature many closed-door conversations, which I've witness from the outside, sometimes overhearing yelling, sometimes watching someone virtually run out of an office afterwards.  And sometimes the doors are left ajar and I am able to glean a little more. 
Basically, the triad of the recession, the ebook revolution, and Borders collapsing has sent the world of print books into a bit of a tailspin.  We aren't down and out yet, but we are bleeding.  Sometimes we bleed in the form of layoffs, sometimes just financially, and sometimes more bookstores are brought down as collateral damage. 
Since the economy took a dive back in 2008, all businesses have taken a hit, and publishing is no exception.  While you might think the newly unemployed would have a lot more time to spend reading, it seems that buying books is not a priority for those updating their resumes and counting how long they have left on unemployment benefits.  Impulse buying in every market has dropped, books included.

It was 2010 when ebooks really began to make an impact.  Between the Kindle, the Nook, and the IPad, plus many other devices, people are finding it easy and convenient to download their reading materials all onto one portable tablet and leave the paperbacks behind.  More than any other genre, Romance readers have come to appreciate the anonymity ebooks provide their reading choices.  There are far less mass market books being bought every month as digital book readers take over the niche.

And the long slow death of the book store giant that is Borders has finally been declared.  While we all hung on to hopes that someone would buy them out and continue to sell the merchandise, no such savior arose.  Books-A-Million plans to buy a number of stores, and so some book selling will continue through that account, but a lot of stores, their employees, and their inventory are simply defunct.  Along with them go all of the publishing house reps who sold to the chain.  And as one of the strongest sellers of mass market books, this compounds the problem that ebooks brings to the format. 
So now we all huddle in our cubes, trying to avoid shrapnel from the fall out, and hoping that independent stores will rise again in the void left by the demise of the book selling giant, and that people will always want the experiencing of holding a book in their hands, turning its pages, and getting lost in the printed words.

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