Tuesday 27 July 2010

The Future is Bleak

The Wylie vs the Publishing World fight is becoming fiercer by the day. I liked the articles in the Independent, especially the level-headed contribution by Profile's Andrew Franklin. I am left wondering too, in such a depressing and difficult market, who the real winner is in all this. Many people say Amazon. But let's not forget the Googles, the Apples and the Sonys of this world – the great behemoths of our digital era, who are well capable to wipe us all out in a short time. Certainly the publishers and the authors are the greatest losers – but agents too, and the entire supply chain, who is not parasitical but instrumental in making a book or an author successful.

I looked at last week's report, and noticed sales of 125 e-book units, just from one supplier. Am I happy? No. Not just because it really goes against my beliefs and ethos, not just because I prefer reading on paper than on screen, but because I can easily see how the digital products can cannibalize traditional sales in the same way as it happened for the music industry. The market will get smaller, the margins will drop even further, and we'll have fewer and fewer large-budget books, which will kill independence and diversity.

Oh well, luckily enough for the time being we still have our literary dinners where we can meet with friends and gossip to our hearts' content. Yesterday we met again with Tim Parks, and he told me stories that I wish I had heard before writing BESTSELLER. This publishing world is a total circus, and perhaps we do need an Angel of Death to force us to a new beginning, after all.


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