Why are there so many zombie memes in publishing? Why is there so much groupthink? It might be because the industry isn’t particularly diverse. Or it could be that book-lovers are nostalgic types who are automatically wary of change.
But I suspect it’s astroturfing by the publishing establishment, a practice admitted to last month by YS Chi, chairman of Elsevier and president of the International Publishers Association, in paragraph six of this article.
For the click-lazy, here’s the money quote (emphasis mine):
“We gathered all the communications people together to discuss the issues and create an action plan. We have a multi-faceted audience to address, and in the next 12 months you will see key messages delivered, compelling stories of our impact on society for culture and education. We’ll ask you to personalize that message. I’m very excited that there is a meeting of minds on this.”
Yey, talking points! I don’t know if I’m more excited about the centrally approved messaging that’s going to flood the blogosphere, or the mental image of YS Chi doing a mind-meld with everyone in publishing.
But I digress. This post attempts to dispel multiple industry myths in one fell swoop. Perhaps then we can start having meaningful conversations, instead of batting around boardroom memos.
Self-publishing is a bubble
Remember Ewan Morrison’s prediction in The Guardian? “Epublishing is another tech bubble, and it will burst in the next 18 months.”
That was two years ago, but Morrison was never one to wave the white flag in the face of facts, evidence, or logic. He’s now pushed the date out for this bubble bursting to a point in the 2020s (don’t ask me to be more exact, I can’t abide his pseudo-intellectual crap).
I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised Morrison is still beating this drum, given he has admitted, “writing about the end of books generates more income for me than actually publishing the darn things.”
Publishers (and Apple) never fixed them prices
It was all a conspiracy by the pro-Amazon DOJ! Let’s just ignore the fact that Amazon donates to the red team and Apple donates to the blue team, that the Price Fix Six left a trail of evidence a mile long, that the publishing industry actively campaigns for fixed priced laws outside the US, and that any independent legal observer considered it an open-and-shut case, a per se violation of anti-trust law.
The e-book market has flattened/peaked/slumped
We’ve reached the stage now where over 50% of new release fiction is purchased in digital format, as reported by several large publishers last year. The market simply cannot keep doubling – you can’t have 110% of new release sales in digital format. This doesn’t mean the market has flattened or peaked (or slumped).
There is a difference between the rate of growth slowing, and the market actually shrinking, and official industry figures don’t measure any of the boom in self-publishing. Eoin Purcell had a good piece in the Irish Times noting this, and Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader drills down further here. Continue reading