At the three-day BookExpo and BlogWorld at the Javits Center a couple of weeks ago, I spoke with quite a few people about the future of the book-publishing and e-publishing industries. The first thing I found out is that no one is prepared to make any firm forecasts. But here are some recurring themes:
1. E-Books are for the time being keeping publishers alive because they are getting paid for their backlists through e-book fees, and this isn't taking any work. Also, e-books, rather than proving to be a substitute for physical books, are making it poosible for people to read more.
2. Bookstore Closings are seriously affecting the mass-market publishers, who could always count on unloading large quantities of excess books on the bookstores. The high profit margins on mass-market books (which means just about any book printed in large quantities that is and sold at a low price) are attractive to bookstores because they are purchased as gifts or as bargains. But they are hard to sell sight unseen by mail or email. The number of mass-marketers of books is shrinking.
3. Author-Reader Links are made difficult by the unwillingness of on-demand publishers like Amazon (and its subsidiary CreateSpace) or iInfinity or others to provide authors with the names of their book buyers. In the view of many at the two conferences, this is very short-sighted because the future of publishing is in a heightened connection between authors and readers. CloudWave, with whose principals I spoke at length, is trying to address this connection.
4. Author Promotional Efforts are now expected by publishers. Less famous authors who are building their reader loyalty through websites and emails are surprising their publishers with their long lines at book-signing events.