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In a recent blog post, my friend, Brian Kell (aka [info]briankell), wondered if the vast number of books published, self-published and/or e-published these days will hurt the industry.

I’ve seen a lot of (mostly negative) speculation about this. Personally, I don’t think it will make much difference. After all, there are already way too many books available for folks to read in a lifetime. The vast majority of readers buy their books from Wal-Mart, Target, their local grocery store, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. They don’t know (and frankly, don’t care) about the hundreds of thousands of other titles available elsewhere, and why should they?

There’s an argument that poor writing/editing quality found in many self-pubbed works will ruin things for those of us lucky enough to have a traditional publisher, as if the experience will somehow put people off reading all together. I don't see why. It would be like sitting through a dreadful movie and deciding you'll never go to the cinema again.

Besides, it’s not like the folks who buy those books are going to buy one less elsewhere as a result. I imagine most people who buy a self-pubbed novel only do so because they know the author in some way (the same probably goes for many traditionally published authors whose work doesn't grace the shelves at the likes of Barnes & Noble).

When I look at the industry as a whole, I really can’t see all these extra publishing options changing things much. Sure, lots of folks now have e-readers, but like their audio counterparts, e-Books are still books. I suspect the sad truth of it is that, regardless of format, most people haven’t even noticed the upsurge in the number of titles available to them.

When I’m browsing the shelves or scanning a website, I’m not thinking about where else I could go to buy a book. I want it find it ‘here’ - whatever the ‘it’ and wherever that ‘here’ may be (even when I don’t know what I’m looking for).

The extra titles available these days make advertising and positive word of mouth more important now than ever before, but they’ve always played a major role in a book’s success or failure, especially to an unknown – and by ‘unknown’ I mean ‘unknown to the potential reader’.

Personally, while getting a traditional print contract is probably harder today than it ever was, I don’t see the publishing industry collapsing any time soon.


How about you?

How do you think the increasing number of published books will affect the industry?



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Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
musingaloud
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
I don't have an e-reader -- yet! I think I'm going to ask for one for my birthday though. Mainly because my oldest got one this last year and he loves it so much that he is reading a TON more books than he ever did before. He now reads on his lunch hour at work and in bits and spurts. And I think the quick availability of getting something new to read works well, too. Just think, if you need a new book, instead of waiting to go to the local bookstore or ordering online and waiting to get it, you just pick up your e-reader and presto! you have it. Impulse buying must be huge with an e-reader, I would imagine. And this is my son who did read some as a child and growing up, but he's not the one I consider my "reader" child. So go figure. An e-reader has turned hin into a big reader.
jongibbs
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Anything which makes people read more is a good thing in my book, if you'll pardon the pun :)
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
msstacy13
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
While amazon doesn't hide the fact that a book is self-published,
they don't call attention to it, either.
At least a few people who don't know me have bought at least one of my books,
and I hope this trend continues.

But just for the sake of analogy,
I can't imagine Herman Melville
supposing that more whales in the sea
would somehow endanger whaling...
jongibbs
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
Excellent analogy :)
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 24th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 24th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
a_r_williams
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
I agree with many of your points. More books will not lead to a destruction of the industry. Indie authors will improve the quality of their work over time and make books that are very much equal to what traditional publishers ship.

Even books with less quality can find readers who are interested in what they have to offer for the simple fact it offers something different than what's usually published.

There are hundreds of channels on TV now people find programs to watch. There are millions of internet sites and people manage to find the ones that have the information they need.

More choices is a good thing.
jongibbs
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Scary fact:

According to LiveJournal's home page, there are 39.8 million blogs on LJ alone.

Eek!
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
snapes_angel
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
Quite frankly, I'll review almost anything. The few books that I've reviewed whose authors were unfortunate enough to utilize PublishAmerica were actually good enough, that I'd wished they had found another publisher. One series of books that I've had an ongoing thing with (Rust Sword, Ivory Sword, etcetera) do have their faults, but I think most of those are due to the publisher. In the first book, the authors made the elves a bit too human, but they actually improved upon that, farther on, not only by adding subtle nuances, but also having the non-human races act quite a bit less human. I rather like the series. The whole thing is based on their rpg, which may go some ways to explain their choice of publisher.

I do like a lot of the smaller presses. Some of them are quite promising, in terms of accepted quality of writing, and diversity of genre.

I do feel, however, that a lot of people who go on to self-publish would do well to run their works through writer's workshops and beta readers first. When you're putting yourself forth, you don't want to put anything less than your best, into a portfolio of work. The same is as true of writing, as it is of graphic design.
jongibbs
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
How do you think all these self-published books will affect the industry as a whole?
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 23rd, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 23rd, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Jul. 23rd, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
We need a new t-shirt: So many more books, even less time' :)
bogwitch64
Jul. 24th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
No surprise, but I agree with you 100%.
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
:)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jul. 24th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
I just can't see print books disappearing.

E-readers are great, so are audio books, but the vast majority of the world's population either has no access to, or can't afford them, and that's not likely to change much in the next fifty years or so.

I do think 'Bestseller' lists on sites like Amazon will start to become more important, especially now Borders has gone the way of the dodo. I also think The New York Times best-seller list will change, to incorporate internet sales pf print and e-books from sites like B&N and Amazon etc.
karen_w_newton
Jul. 24th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
One thing I don't see mentioned is the "free sample." In addition to a cheaper price, one thing ebooks offer is the chance to "try before you buy." I use that a lot, not only for self-published books but for traditionally published books by authors I've never read before. I think publishing is going through a shakedown period as the model changes to "digital first" instead of mass market paperback first. It may be very different in five years or even three.

jongibbs
Jul. 25th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
'I think publishing is going through a shakedown period '

That much is certain :)
shoebrera
Jul. 24th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
Well, it's all been said before I checked in.
But I do agree with you, Jon. The quality of the workmanship matters; always has, always will.
I don't ask who made that piece of furniture or that piece of music until I know if I like it. Then I look for more by the same person.
I am more than willing to read a recommended book, at least the first few chapters. Word of mouth (or words of mouths) matter in my world. But what I read on the jacket or cover can be the big selling point as well. I've discovered an enjoyment for genres I didn't know I'd like.
Publishing is changing. But I like to think it's changing for the better. And self-pubbed authors without critiquers or editors or copyeditors -- at least two of the three -- will disappear in the dust unless they are very, very, very talented.
jongibbs
Jul. 25th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
'Publishing is changing. But I like to think it's changing for the better.

Me too, Deanna :)
rowyn
Jul. 25th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
More books may make 'blockbusters' rarer -- 1000 authors selling 10 books each rather than 10 authors selling 1000 books each, so to speak. That's bad if you were going to be one of the blockbusters, but good if you were going to be one of the unpublished. ;) It doesn't make much difference to an e-tailer.

I suspect other factors will have a bigger impact on the overall industry. Right now, ereaders seem to be getting more people to do more reading overall, but in a sense, all entertainment is competing for leisure time. An uptick in leisure time would be good for the book biz.
jongibbs
Jul. 25th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
One things for sure, the times they are a-changin' :)
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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