As social distancing reportedly provides the perfect opportunity to, depending on one’s authorial aspirations, either write or finally read “King Lear,” book publishing may seem like the rare industry well-suited to a world altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve had friends and family who are completely outside of the publishing industry be like, ‘This must be a great time for book sales!’” Stephanie Wrobel, whose debut novel “Darling Rose Gold” came out on March 5, said wryly. “I have to be the one to burst the bubble.”
In practice, nothing is quite so simple — and the publishing industry, like nearly every other, is struggling. Last month, not long after scooping up Woody Allen’s controversial memoir, Skyhorse Publishing laid off 30% of its staff. Macmillan Publishers shut down an imprint, instituted salary reductions and laid off a number of employees. Indie bookstores like Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, and McNally Jackson in New York City have also laid off staff, though Powell’s later rehired salespeople to ship online orders.
The inexpert among us are getting a crash course right now in supply chains and revenue streams. Despite the current demand for hospital resources and news media, for example, both industries are facing a financial crunch thanks to lost elective procedures and ad revenue, respectively. And though a book may begin and end as a solitary experience, from a writer’s mind to a reader’s hands, the publishing industry is an ecosystem vulnerable to the pandemic just like so many others, one threaded together by bookstores, festivals, warehouses, delivery trucks and, of course, customers with money to spend.
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For other authors, with release dates falling amid lockdowns, none of the in-person parties and readings are coming to fruition. Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have brought tours, parties and festival appearances to an abrupt halt, leaving authors, particularly less-established ones, scrambling to sell their books.
Link to the rest at HuffPost
PG thought one of the jobs of publishers was to sell the books they publish.
If it’s up to authors to scramble to sell their books, what value exactly do the publishers add to the mix?
When Amazon is by far the largest bookseller in the parts of the world PG knows anything about?
Well, publishers arrange book-signings . . . at physical bookstores that sell a smaller and smaller percentage of total books sold. (Cue ominous Amazon music)
Well, publishers get reviewers to provide book reviews, which appear in newspapers (declining circulation) and magazines (ditto), and reviews drive readers to buy books (on Amazon, where there are zillions of reviews written by actual fans of romance or science fiction)
But printed books! The sensuous feeling when your delicate fingers lightly slide over the pages and feel the price tag on the back!
PG is not very imaginative today, but has no trouble thinking of dozens of things which are not books for his delicate fingers to slide over if he’s in that sort of mood.
PG recently made the mistake of purchasing an excellent physical book by one of PG’s most favorite authors.
It’s a history. Of World War II. With lots of details and comparisons between battles in World War II and the Athenians vs. the Spartans, the Second Punic and Jugurthine Wars, Yorktown, Napoleon, etc., etc. Plus it has 122 pages of end matter.
It’s a great book and, like a lot of PG’s favorite books, about one brick thick (in paperback).
However, it’s just not that fun to hold and, should PG absent-mindedly put it down without inserting a bookmark, it will take him several minutes to relocate his place. (PG realizes that this is a first-world problem, but that’s where he lives.)
PG’s Kindle Paperwhite, which is his favorite reading device (much lighter than an iPad and without incoming text messages, plus it just sips on its battery), is a device designed for one purpose, reading books.
Reading a 1200-page book on the Paperwhite feels just the same as reading a 150-page book. Absent the intervention of one of PG’s younger offspring, the Paperwhite always lights up where PG stopped reading. It won’t fit in a pants pocket, but does slide nicely into the pockets of most of PG’s coats if he wants to read somewhere else.
The only downside to the Paperwhite that PG can think of offhand is that, unlike a collection of books, a Paperwhite doesn’t make a good backdrop during a Zoom videoconference.