Sunday, November 07, 2010

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books: New Yorker article.

This is very interesting. Aside from "how will it all turn out when ebooks take over? Will anybody earn any money still? Who? And how?", it also takes up the old question "what's is a publisher? is he an unnecessary middleman, a leach? Or is he a nurturer and dissemminator of talent?"

Publishers maintain that digital companies don’t understand the creative process of books. A major publisher said of Amazon, “They don’t know how authors think. It’s not in their DNA.” Neither Amazon, Apple, nor Google has experience in recruiting, nurturing, editing, and marketing writers. The acknowledgments pages of books are an efficiency expert’s nightmare; authors routinely thank editors and publishers for granting an extra year to complete a manuscript, for taking late-night phone calls, for the loan of a summer house. These kinds of gestures are unlikely to be welcomed in cultures built around engineering efficiencies.
Good publishers find and cultivate writers, some of whom do not initially have much commercial promise. They also give advances on royalties, without which most writers of nonfiction could not afford to research new books. The industry produces more than a hundred thousand books a year, seventy per cent of which will not earn back the money that their authors have been advanced; aside from returns, royalty advances are by far publishers’ biggest expense. Although critics argue that traditional book publishing takes too much money from authors, in reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist.


Bronislaus Janulis said...

Well, interesting, and as someone who has benefited from the old model, but also enjoys the new ... well ... change, she be a coming. Librarys, bookstores, used bookstores, all changing. Gilding remains the same.


Anonymous said...

I just wonder about the technology they're read on changing. I mean, how many billions were spent on DVDs only to have Blu Ray come out. With a traditional paper book I can at least be sure that assuming I don't lose my sight I will always be able to read it.

Also if electronic books take over enough there won't be profit in printing them on paper. So we won't have a choice.