Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thoughts on the industry in 2018

2017 is coming to a close. As I look into 2018, I am a bit concerned, unless authors, agents, and publishers come together. Do I think we will completely lose publishing? No! Do I think there will be major changes that have to happen? Yes! But I am afraid it might be too late for many.

What is my concern? It is the push here in North America for "going all digital". No, this is not the idea that e-books are going to make a comeback. It is the idea that the North American population is so obsessed with the idea of everything going digital, that we are pushing the idea of reading out of our brains. Consider...

More and more companies are pushing for their TV and movies to go digital. Consider all of these shows you now watch through services such as Netflix and Hulu. OK, I get that seeing those digitally are great in terms of space and potentially the cost of production and so forth, but the issue comes from where we are watching these things. Those phones, E-READERS (Yes, I put that in bold for a reason) are now strictly becoming a mobile movie theatre. The space we had on those phones for books is just not there.

This is not just happening with the general public. Look around you and consider what is going on in the school and colleges. More and more of our educational institutions are pushing heavily for "going digital" and "open source curriculum." Now, while this might seem a great way to make education a bit more affordable, it is taking over too much. It is becoming an obsession.

One school near me has gone 100% digital. All the kids in the entire district have iPads. They live off of APP-versions of programs. To save money, they use a Learning Management System called CANVAS which many colleges use (I should note, this is not that bad). But, to really push that saving, they encourage EVERYTHING to be turned in digitally. Now, here is the kicker. The only programs they have access to for that word processing is PAGES (the Apple version of MS Word) and Google Docs. But wait, there's more. The App version of Pages and trying to type on an iPad touch screen has limited keyboard availability. This particular school only has 2 class sets of keyboards that have to be connected.

Testing, textbooks and so forth have gone entirely digital. But, the books they need to read cannot be accessed on the iPads because "buying" those Kindle Books, is "too expensive. The end result here... kids are not reading, but using the iPads to play games.

Now, as people quit buying those books because they need to binge watch a TV series, publishers have to make harsh decisions about who they sign, what they sign, what lines they run and who will write the books. I have seen a lot of these things happening during the last year. Publishers are not signing on a ton of new authors, but sticking with those that have been around and already have a following. Even new digital lines that launch as independents tend to stick with authors who already had a following.

Just a note here. The things happening now happened back in 2008 with the housing bubble. The difference is that it is a different external industry driving this.

I have spoken about this in the past as well, but for many authors, going digital just does not make the money they thought it would. Readers cannot find the books, and as we can see, readers are choosing House of Cards over the latest Steve Berry book.

Have I found myself making adjustments? Yes! I too am now passing on more and more books simply because the quality of the book is not there and I need to have things that would really make an impact and would make a publisher stand up and take notice. It has to be AMAZING to get the publishers to look beyond their established stable of authors.

Changes are going to need to be made. We need to get "books" back out there for people. We have to make books affordable. We have to get those bookstores that we all loved back open again. Make these book stores. Quit selling everything else in those stores. We don't need ski equipment and toys. Go for the books.

If the North American market wants to get going with publishing it will take some risks. The European market is still buying books, and we can too.

No, I do not think this is a situation where the North American publishing market is now sitting in a hospice care waiting to die. There is hope. But it cannot be the direction we are going now.

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