Jan 22, 2009

Time Magazine Ruminates on the Future of Publishing

A couple of days ago I pointed out Gareth Powell's insightful post on Blorge regarding the impact that reading books on iPhones and iPods is already having on the publishing industry. Now, Time Magazine is weighing in on the subject, with a timely article on how new technologies and even social changes are affecting the traditional practices of the book trade.

From self-published authors bypassing the agent/publisher game, changing economics, new print-on-demand technologies and yes--reading on cell phones, writer Lev Grossman makes a clear case that things are changing. Most probably forever. He contrasts the orchard-like setting of the traditional publishing model with the new jungle-like environment of the current book bazaar, where work of all kinds is offered in multiple forms, and often, at little or no cost. While many are trying to figure out how to monetize the ever increasing demand (the global literacy rate is estimated at about 82% now) Grossman sums up the essence of the article brilliantly:
"...the picture begins to resolve itself: more books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City's entrenched publishing culture."
Taken as a whole, the future of publishing may look dismal for some, but incredibly exciting for others. I would lean toward the latter group. The article ends on a succinct but clearly objective note as well: "None of this is good or bad; it just is."

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