The holiday season is upon us and 2009 is almost over. And, for better or for worse, it has been a year of ups and downs for the publishing industry. The most volatile issue the industry has faced is that of e-books and what to do about them. Last weekend, I blogged about Simon & Schuster as well as Hatchette Books deciding to delay certain e-books for 4 to 6 months after the publication of the hard cover edition. Harper Collins quickly joined in, announcing they, too, would delay certain e-books. All of which seems to fly in the face of the fact the one segment of the industry that is growing leaps and bounds is the sale of e-books. Where the debate will end, no one knows for certain. However, I think we are going to see more and more authors taking matters into their own hands. 7 Habits author Stephen R. Covey has moved the e-rights from a couple of his books from S&S to Amazon. Paul Carr is, in his own words, is producing " my own pirated version" of his book Bringing Nothing to the Party and giving it away free on his website to coincide with the release of the paperback version of the book. And, to add another spin to the mix, Carr's agent told him to do it. Will we see more and more of this happening? I think so. Authors, on the whole, seem to know that they have to get their work into as many readers' hands as possible and e-books don't necessarily cut sales, even when given free. They tend to increase interest in a writer's work, especially his back-list of books no longer in print, or that are hard to find. A word to publishers, isn't this what you should be worried about as well instead of the declining sales of over-priced hard cover editions?
Then there was the whole Harlequin foray into the vanity press business. Again, I had to scratch my head and wonder what in the world corporate was thinking. They obviously hadn't anticipated the quick and decisive moves by RWA, SFWA or MWA in denouncing the move and removing Harlequin and its authors from future pro status in their organizations. Again, the full depth and breadth of the fall-out from this move have yet to be seen.
We've seen Borders disappear from the UK and Barnes & Noble bring out the Nook, its answer to the Kindle. B. Dalton is closing in Laredo, TX, leaving Laredo 150 miles from the nearest bookstore.
Yet, for all the negatives in the industry, there have been positives as well. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have been on the rise. For October 2009, sales were at $18.5 million, up 254.3% over Oct. 2008. Year to date revenue is up 180.7%. Kindle sales have sent Amazon stock on the rise. The Nook premiered to mixed reviews but sold out quickly. Even Harper-Collins, one of the publishers that announced delays in certain e-versions of best sellers, is polling readers on their reading habits, etc. What's interesting is their poll, meant to determine the viability of e-books, when to release them and what their retail cost should be, is skewed because it is an on-line poll and let's face it. Those surfing the internet and taking such a poll are more likely to read and e-book than those who don't.
For another take on what happened in the publishing world this past year, check out Nathan Bransford's blog.
So, what do you see as having been the most important development in the industry this year? The most controversial? Do you agree with Jessica over at the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management blog that this has been the decade of Middle East in publishing or has it been the decade of Twilight? Finally, what do you see happening in the publishing world over the next year or two?