From Hachette CEO Michael Peitsch via The Wall Street Journal:
I’ve been hearing about the demise of book publishing since the first day I stepped through the doors of a publisher back in 1978. But here we are still, publishers like Little, Brown, with histories going back 100 and 200 years. What other American industry has companies still in existence after two centuries, evolving and modernizing but still doing much the same work? The most recent variant of the death watch: A digital revolution would cause e-books to replace printed ones, authors would overwhelmingly choose self-publishing, and publishers would follow carriage makers into oblivion.
After several years of rapid e-book growth, their sales topped out at about one-quarter of publishers’ revenues and have declined for a year. Print books have proved durable because, as a format, they’re simply hard to improve on. Music, movies and TV were all fundamentally altered because digitization allowed readers to experience those entertainments anywhere. Books were portable the day they were invented. Other forms have only just caught up.
And self-publishing? It’s grown hugely as an option for writers who want to reach readers directly. But writers like to be paid, in advance, for their work. Publishers are investors and risk takers. And a publishing company with longstanding media and marketing relationships is far more capable of getting attention for a new book than a writer working alone.
. . . .
Publishers’ essential work will remain the same—identifying, investing in, nurturing, and marketing great writers. The abundance of titles readers have come to expect will continue to gush forth. Pictorial storytelling will increase in popularity, and comic versions of novels and nonfiction will become commonplace. More titles will be published for children and young-adult readers, including books blended and layered with games. Beloved best-selling writers, living and dead, will publish books more frequently, often with help from co-writers. (Especially the dead ones.) Self-publishing will continue to grow, and appetites unnoticed by mainstream publishers, like the erotica explosion that began in online fan fiction, will find, well, satisfaction. New forms will emerge for mobile devices, as millions abandon e-readers with phones already in their pockets.
Ever-larger retailers and wholesalers bring significant margin pressure, which will lead to continued conglomeration. Social media will continue to expand the writer’s ability to connect with readers; publishers will deepen their relationships with writers, but they’ll also create content of their own. As runaway books sell ever-larger numbers, publishers will earn more on their biggest sellers—which will keep driving up the advances they pay for potential hits. At the same time, publishers will need to innovate and challenge assumptions about every aspect of the business.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Anthea for the tip.