State of the Union

Sorry for the long silence!  At the expense of reading, I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in real-life issues–becoming a manager at work, becoming a graduate student in Library and Information Science (hurray!), apartment hunting, etc.  In short, acting in a manner contrary to the spirit of this blog.  For that, I apologize.

While it’s old news at this point, I feel compelled to at least mention Amazon’s ebook sales surpassing its print book sales (105:100), pretty much since April.  An article that appeared in The New York Times was encouraging in its reminder that

Over all, e-books account for only about 14 percent of all general consumer fiction and nonfiction books sold, according to Forrester Research.

“E-book reading is a big deal and it’s going to continue to be even bigger,” said James L. McQuivey, a digital media analyst at Forrester. “But we are not to the point where e-books are a majority of unit sales and certainly not a majority of revenue.”

There is a greater availability of e-books/readers on the market, which, while indicating a more permanent shift towards digital, has shown inklings of a healthier  market for this publishing niche; for this I am thankful.  Competition by the Nook and Kobo (see their latest advances here) have helped level the e-reader playing field, preventing an Amazonian monopoly from taking place.

The change in the book industry couldn’t have been more apparent than at the BookExpo America at the end of May.  At this annual trade show there was a distinct focus on e-books, as publishers, authors, and booksellers gathered to view the latest industry offerings and attend lectures on new technologies and social media.  My favorite description for the event was by Julie Bosman, who stated that “There is a Wild West quality to the book business these days,” as everyone seems to be staking claims in other territory.  “Authors are shrugging off publishers to self-publish their work. Publishers are advancing into retail. Barnes & Noble is getting deeper into the gadget business, and Amazon is stepping into publishing.”  This last item speaks to former Random House publisher Laurence J. Kirshbaum’s announcement that he will be heading a new imprint for Amazon.  Already, they have a contract with author Barry Eisler, who was reportedly fed up with “the traditional book industry.”  There is a more detailed account of Kirshbaum’s position available on TheBookseller.com.

All this upheaval is unsettling but it carries a bit excitement with it as well, because we all know that book publishing and selling has been stagnant or struggling for some time now.  As much as I dislike going digital, I think the industry will benefit from a good shakeup.

Still, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the blocks near Chicago’s Harold Washington Library two weeks ago for the Printers Row Book Fair, where scads of people were out perusing new, used, and rare books and only one Kindle was in sight.

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