For many of us, this week’s final print edition of Newsweek was no great loss. Think of it as an editorial dinosaur succumbing in an age of the blogosphere.
But those of us who still write a bit for things actually published on paper get the sense they are coming for us next. The recession has been rough on everyone, but for publishers this has been a nightmare (especially for small, independent presses).
If it isn’t big bookstore chains squeezing diversity from the retail marketplace, it’s e-books merchants like Amazon who (following the iTunes example) extract ever larger slices of profit margin from both writers and original publishers. Today npr.org published a quasi-apology about the new e-reader. A few opening paragraphs are reproduced below:
“What counts as a book these days, in a world of Kindles, Nooks and iPads — and eager talk about new platforms and distribution methods? Traditional publishers are traveling a long and confusing road into the digital future. To begin with, here’s the conventional wisdom about publishing: E-books are destroying the business model.
“People expect them to be cheaper than physical books, and that drives down prices. But the story’s not that simple. For one thing, digital publishers have the same problem that record labels do: piracy. And there’s just not the same stigma attached to pirating an e-book as there is to holding up a Barnes & Noble.
“It turns out, though, that some publishers are doing pretty well despite the piracy problem. ‘We’ve had an incredible year,’ says Sourcebooks President Dominique Raccah. ‘Last year was the best year in the company’s history. This year we beat that, which I didn’t think was even possible.’ Raccah adds that her company is doing well because of digital publishing, not in spite of it. “It’s been an amazing ride,” she says.
“It turns out there are some huge advantages — at least for publishers. A big one: The price of an e-book isn’t fixed the way it is with physical books. Ten years ago, a publisher would have sent out its books to the bookstore with the price stamped on the cover. After that, it was done — the publisher couldn’t put it on sale to sell more books.”