The writing is on the wall
Bookshops, publishing houses, high streets, libraries and literary festivals were all used to popularize books in the past. But today, apart from one medium, the rest have all suffered a major setback owing to the internet. Award-winning authors and renowned publishers discuss the demise of the book trade.
The Last Rare Bookshop
Melvin Clark, owner of Bournemouth’s last rare and second-hand bookshop explains the collapse of his industry because of the internet.
Middlemen not needed
John Mitchinson, who was the first Managing Director of Waterstones says, ‘The old model is wasteful. Quarter of the books published are destroyed every year. Only one in five books that are commissioned back their advances. The average author earns £16,000 a year; take out the top-10 and its only £4,000.’
Digital author Michelle Dry explains why it makes more sense for authors to go digital: ‘Published authors earn 10% of the revenue generated from their books because a lot of money is lost between the final edit and hitting the racks in bookstores. This money goes to a literary agent, literary editor, publisher and for shelf-space, printing, marketing, sales, inventory, etc.’
Authors, like Dry, have realized that by publishing a book online they can pocket 70% of the revenue they generate from book sales. With websites like Amazon, Smashwords and Kindle, the process of self-publishing online just got a whole lot easier.
But Dr James Pope, senior media lecturer at Bournemouth University, believes that it is only a matter of time before the online publishing fad wears off: ‘The power of publishing houses cannot be underestimated. They will never go completely out of business. They have the budget to get you noticed, to present you at festivals and fairs, get you on TV and radio. In a while we will settle back to organisations doing a better job for a writer than a writer can do for themselves.’
Libraries need a makeover
If people prefer buying books online, does this mean they prefer reading it at home as well. What, then, does this mean for libraries in the UK?
Dr Pope believes that we are currently witnessing the slow demise of libraries because the government will not support media developments that will help sustain them. For example, he would like to see it as a place where people can go to access iPads and work on the latest digital technology.
But a state-of-the-art library in Poole fails to attract customers even though it has reinvented itself beyond books.
The curious case of literary festivals
Now when you assume that the book trade is dying and libraries aren’t getting footfalls, it’s almost a given that literary festivals too would suffer the same fate. However, the situation seems to be exactly the opposite.
Sue Luminati, who organised the Poole Literary Festival last year, said, ‘Literary festivals in England are massive. There are loads of them all over the country. They tend to be smaller, lower key events.’
She adds, ‘When you see an author speaking close to you, it broadens your mind, uplifts you and does everything good festivals should do. Festivals today are doing literature, music and food, so it’s not only a literary festival.’
Mitchinson, too, believes its the face-to-face connection with authors that works in favour of literary festivals.
Dr Pope compares this to the music industry in the UK. He says, ‘All of the record companies are really keen to get in on live music. Collecting albums is not what it used to be; people are spending more on going to live music festivals. Maybe that’s the same with literary festivals. It just means that the emphasis has shifted from sitting at home and reading to interacting and discussing about writing and reading.’
Posted on July 3, 2011, in Books and tagged books, borders uk, bournemouth, bournemouth university, digitization, hamworthy library, james pope, john mitchinson, literary festivals, melvin clark, michelle dry, music festival, poole, poole literary festival, print migration, publishing, retailer, sue luminati, tricia walker, unbound, waterstones, winton bookshop, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.