Things are definitely changing fast. With some authors already making a major splash with e-publishing, this week came news that bestselling novelist Barry Eisler passed up a $500,000 book deal from a major publisher in order to wade into the self-publishing waters.
E-books are become more and more a part of the landscape, though how quickly they become more than 50% remains to be seen.
My question for you this Wednesday: What do you think the publishing landscape will look like in five years? Will e-books have taken over? Will publishers be struggling or thriving? Do you think the future for books looks bright or bleak?
In 2016, how will things look for publishers, agents, bookstores, and, oh yes, authors and readers?
Karen McCluskey says
For adult and YA, I think ebooks will have at least half the fiction market due to ease of purchase, preview and portability. Texts will follow but become e-standard later.
Kids books will be in paper for many, many years to come. For adults, I think only favourite authors and books will win a coveted spot on a physical bookshelf.
I hope my husband is still employed–he works in traditional publishing though he's trying to learn whatever he can about e-books to ensure his survival.
I think it will be harder for writers to break in. I'm already noticing a difference in agents requesting my material–much fewer are requesting partials than a couple of years ago and there's less of a personal touch from agents, too.
Books will gradually disappear as they morph into "content" for Kindles, ipad–esp true for novels–their days are numbered–except for the most popular types of genre fiction and perhaps some high-end literary fiction.
More kids will be deprived of the glorious experience of having picture books read to them as parents stick iphones with "interactive books" in front of them.
People like Barry Eisler will realize their very dumb mistake of doing it themselves…
Many agents will leave the industry.
A few people will realize they actually miss bookstores and perhaps there will be a mini-surge in new independent stores.
Don't major in English–unless you want to work freelance and edit other's people's really crappy novels and self-help books.
Sarah Brand says
One thing I'm wondering is how reader income factors into all this. Are e-readers for the relatively wealthy (who can afford to pay the initial cost of an e-reader), or do those in lower income brackets buy them too, so as to save money in the long run by buying cheaper books? Has anyone heard of any studies on this?
"One thing I'm wondering is how reader income factors into all this. Are e-readers for the relatively wealthy (who can afford to pay the initial cost of an e-reader), or do those in lower income brackets buy them too, so as to save money in the long run by buying cheaper books? Has anyone heard of any studies on this?"
That's an excellent question, and I'm going to answer it this way. There's a TV show on right now called "Shameless." It's about a low income family, struggling to survive. The house is falling apart, they can't pay their bills, the furniture is old and crummy. But there's a huge, expensive flat screen TV in their living room. In other words, the price of an e-reader (Kobo is now about 100.00) isn't going to stop them if they want to read digital books, assuming they have the inclination.
Coming from the "Millennial" generation, you would expect that I prefer E-Books. I actually owned a Kindle for a time, but it sat unused and I gave it to a friend (in his 60s) who really wanted one. I never became comfortable with holding the Kindle, it felt so small and cold as opposed to curling up with a book. Something about turning the pages, a tangible interaction with the story, makes books irreplaceable for me. And despite my generation's obsession with iPods, iPads, iPhones, and anything else in the iClub (I'm obsessed too, no judgements), very few of my friends have converted to E-Books. I would never buy an E-Book for something I want to read over and over again, but I can see how they would be useful for textbooks, magazines, and novels you read just to keep up to date in publishing. If I want a strong connection to the story, I will buy the book in its true form. And I'm not going to "gift" and E-Book… how lame…
Major publishers will be forced to consolidate due to massive losses stemming from consumers rapid adoption of e-readers and the astonishing drop in prices of ebooks to between 99c and $2.99. This will result in heavy layoffs and as someone mentioned before, the relocation of the publishing houses to cheaper digs to places like Sioux Falls SD or Des Moines, IA. Lunch meetings at Arby's anyone?
Authors will band together to form co-ops, guilds and associations within their niche to gain support, marketing help and exposure/discoverability in a sea of ebooks released on a weekly basis. Some of these co-ops will become very popular and (sort of like the Miami Heat in the NBA will gain notoriety when they gain a new kick-ass author to their "team" of ebook authors within the guild)
Agents will need to demonstrate serious social media and web app chops to find ways to help authors rise above the noise. Many will exit the business as the revenue share will be less per author.
Bookstore chains will cease to exist other than boutique and independent shops where you will still be able to find or get help ordering hardcopy books. Print will not die but become much less relevant in relation to "new normal" e-reader consumption patterns by consumers.
Editors and graphic artists will thrive for several years providing self publishing services until new software and automated editing programs arrive that will make complicated formatting a snap. More layoffs and editors, etc will hit the unemployment line. (If you want to really make a killing during the ebook revolution, develop one of these automation programs right now).
The traditional styles and topics will become quaint as much more radical writing styles emerge that elitists will scoff at but the masses will continually devour and create numerous millionaires. (think Hunter S Thompson on steroids). Big name writers will have to work significantly harder as people who have written masterpieces but were passed over by the major publishing houses will seem to come out of nowhere with great books.
The New York Times, Newsweek, Time Magazine,etc will become heavy hitters in non-fiction publishing as their immense wealth of content and writers will allow them to publish astonishingly great collaborative works (this is already in motion). Revenue from these types of non-fiction ebooks will be as much as 10% of their total rev in 2016.
Transmedia and gaming will become integrated with advanced e-readers and authors will will collaborate with many other industries creating new hybrid content and new opportunities for those that can harness the tech.
New genres like scifi-romance and especially variations of erotic will explode as people can anonymously download these types of books that they never would purchase publicly.
I think by then we'll have mostly e-books. I think bookstores will be large, coffee-selling gathering spots, and kind of hybridized with libraries. The idea of authors gaining independence and freedom excites me, but the idea of children reading anything anyone puts out, regardless of quality, scares me. I think there will be a number of freelance editors that writers can hire to help produce a work that will gain a standard "stamp of approval," as in: these writers have produced a work in which a reader will be guaranteed good prose and proper grammar. I think with the self-published crap that will flood the marketplace, parents, schools and teachers will want some kind of assurance that their children are reading something worthwhile. I think it will take time to develop a system that provides such a seal of approval, but I do think that's what will happen. Without a seal like that, we may as well forgo the rules of the English language. Not to sound too bleak or anything.
Marilyn Peake says
I think, in the future, the book industry will look much like the movie industry. Sundance Film Festival was started by Robert Redford in order to give indie filmmakers a chance to succeed after it became too expensive for them to compete against the major film studios. Sundance never threatened the movie industry. On the contrary, it added to it. The major movie studios now purchase successful Sundance films. In 1995, a group of independent artists felt that Sundance had become too commercial and started the Slamdance Film Festival which runs every year right next to, and at the same time as, the Sundance Film Festival. Slamdance hasn’t hurt the commercial film industry. Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster and Jared Hess all got their start at Slamdance. Lots of people from the movie industry attend Sundance, and some of them take time to check out Slamdance as well.
I want to thank you again for introducing your blog followers to the traditional, the indie and the self-publishing side of the publishing world, including your recent posts about the 99-cent Kindle books and the tremendous success of Amanda Hocking. After reading your blog, I decided to try the 99-cent Kindle route. Wow, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done with my writing. A couple of days ago, I posted four titles on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents each. Then, last night I went into the Kindle Discussions on Amazon. Within a few hours, a blogger and book reviewer volunteered to buy and review my books, and a few people mentioned putting a "Like" next to my books and tagging them.
There’s palpable excitement over in the Kindle Discussions. Someone there said it feels like a Revolution and the authors are ePioneers. Someone posted a link to an article that describes the excitement as coming from people with brand new Kindles wanting to find gems among the inexpensive indie Kindle books. I feel that way myself – I found some really great books by other authors priced at $2.95, $1.95 and 99 cents.
None of this will threaten the major publishing houses. Most authors would love to have an agent and publishing contracts with the big publishing houses. Readers will continue to purchase expensive books. The excitement over finding 99-cent gems has made people extremely excited over books, which is good for every type of publishing company. That’s very different than a few years ago when books had difficulty competing against movies, TV shows, and video games for consumers’ interest. Back then, publishers worried that people weren’t reading very much anymore.
By the way, did you notice that Amanda Hocking mentioned your blog on her blog today? She has a really interesting post on her blog today about the decisions she’s making about the future publication of her books.
DEMETRA BRODSKY says
I'd like to say no, but it seems inevitable. I'm a Graphic Designer, so the death of print is always a big funeral for me. It's like LPs. My kids see my collection and although they know who Led Zeppelin is, they're still like "weird. It's so big." What do they know? They better keep their grubby paws off my Pat Bentar album. lol.
LOVE love love your graphic for this post by the way! Fantastic!
Clare WB says
Remember when the IBM Selectric was state of the art for writers and most of our research took place in library reference rooms? That's how different publishing will be for writers–and sooner than we think. I'm happy to think that we'll have more writers having their work read–much like it was in the days of pulp and serial magazine stories. Might not all be good, but there were–and will be–some wonderful stories read by people who didn't and don't buy big, expensive books. Vive l'ebooks!
I see these days of self-published authors as being akin to the days of pulp fiction in the 20's through the 40's. That period produced many successful writers, but also produced many works of questionable literary value. There will be a deluge of e-books and other works from every writer who believes they have something to say, but only a small percentage will be successful. The coming years will see successful e-writers being more from those who market their works the best than from those who are the best writers. Hopefully there will be critics who will recognize the works for substance, not just number of sales.
Other Lisa says
I mean, who knows, really?
What I think, because I'm sort of an optimist:
Though EBooks will take some market share away from paper, I don't think it will be 50% of the current market. The optimist in me thinks that EBooks will expand the pie in general. I am hoping that they will be a gateway, for some, to read, because of the novelty of the device, and an encouragement for others to simply buy more books, both E and paper.
I honestly think that paper is a better way to read a book — maybe not a text book, or a magazine or a newspaper — but a better way to read a long narrative. I know not everyone agrees, but I think for most readers, a paper book is a better reading experience.
I put myself in that category. I'd like to get an eReader for certain situations and to buy less expensive books from authors I'm not familiar with. I have a feeling I'd just end up buying more books, period.
Bookstores: I vote for smart indies. I've seen them at work, and I think they can survive and flourish, because of the value they bring to their customers. I do agree that they need to focus on events (authors and book-oriented) and additions (coffee, food, wine) that get people into the store. There's the convenience and price factor of Amazon on the one hand, but I think there's a craving for actual, physical community on the other, and bookstores can provide that.
Publishing: I dunno, quite honestly. I do think you'll see Big Six (or Big Five) publishers picking the creme out of the self-pub pile and offering them deals. As in bookstores, I think there's a place for smart smaller independent publishers with good infrastructure for marketing and distribution.
Marie Gilbert says
I agree with other Lisa. I feel that it will be a 50/50 split between established Publishing Companies and e-books. I have a nook, but I love to hold books in my hands. If book stores begin to offer a wide scale of activities, they will survive. I have nine grandchildren 8 years old to 22 years old and they love going to the Deptford N.J. Barnes and Noble on Saturdays.
stephen matlock says
Something like e-books will take over 85% or more of the market, but I don't think we'll see Kindles and Nooks like we do now.
There are at least 2 generations of new devices ready to come out between now and 2016.
I don't even know if we'll call them e-books by that time.
And I think the biggest thing is not just that it's e-books, but that we will see the disappearance of bookstores and publishers, and the rise of one or two vetting publishers such as Amazon.
There will be a fight to establish creds on Amazon & other sites, and these credentialed reviewers will take the place of publishers in terms of saying whether a book is worth reading.
testing, testing, 1,2,4,
Their is one literary quote that came to my head immediately after reading the whole JA Konrath Blog. It 'tis: "off with their heads!"
And thusly it made me think of Russian Royalty, Czar Nicholas, who was a zealot that bled the people dry but probably didn't deserve to have his head cut off and lose his children. Still, without the czar as Russia's ruler, chaos ruled supreme for centuries.
Which led me to today's upheaval in the Middle East. Ain't much different from the arguments that we are having between the published and the not publisheds.
If you can predict the Middle East, you will be able to predict the how books will look in five years.
And if you are that good you will also be winning the March Madness pool.
The publishing houses will have to consolidate due to new pricing structure realities brought on by the ebook marketplace. Most ebooks will be priced between 99c and $4.99. this will result in massive layoffs and the forced relocation of the industry to less expensive locations.
Thousands of authors who had previously written novels but could never get them published will self publish them as ebooks. Many will will languish in obscurity, some will become recognized as great works. A few will become instant classics.
The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, etc will all be publishing volumes of non-fiction "digital newsbooks" collaboratively created by armies of professional journalists. The first of these are being published now. This will generate a significant additional revenue stream for news organizations.
Many authors will band together to form cooperatives in order to provide quality assurance, marketing synergy and greater visbility/discoverability. This is also just starting to occur now.
Widespread piracy and IP infringement will be a major issue.
Editors and other support staff positions will be in demand initially but advanced artificial intelligence software may emerge to provide easy formatting for indie self-publishers eliminating the need to hire additional support staff to self-publish.
e-readers will usher in a renaissance of the written word. Great authors will achieve cult like, rockstar status (similar to early-mid Stephen King era)
Aggregators will be able to quickly assemble high quality works and put out fascinating collections/sets of radical new writers with different perspectives.
Janiel Miller says
I was going to say the publishing industry will look like Madonna in five years, but I might have misunderstood the question.
Jolene Perry says
I think the future is good. Most of the people in publishing will simply be shifting roles to accomodate ebooks.
I think it means good things for authors – but a LOT more sifting for consumers to find things that are read-worthy.
I see a lot of correlations between the music industry and the publishing industry in terms of what happens to the artists after they no longer have representation and there is no industry in place to support them – or new artists.
A lot of published authors will jump ship and self-publish, as well as those who had a couple of books published and didn’t get a new contract. But only formerly established authors who have name recognition on the shelves will be able to make bank. The average indie writer won’t have a snowball’s chance in h*ll for the most part. The only way indie writers can possibly “succeed” will be to churn out penny dreadfuls in great gobs as quickly as they can. After they e-publish 50+ novels, they might start making some change. Write under enough nom de plumes and in enough genres, and one or two might become successful. For these people, the focus will be on quantity, not quality. We might see some indie writers flooding the market with a new book once a week. Ebooks will be treated more like iPhone apps. We'll never really know how many people read them.
The Big Six may still exist, although I do see some mergers. They’ll be smaller, and they’ll have to relocate due to the expense of NYC real estate. By then, they’ll have done their market research and they’ll cater to the market as to produce books that appeal to the widest possible demographic. Said books will be written at an eighth-grade level, which is the mean in America. Basically, we’ll get the Britney Spears and Justin Beibers of books. Literary fiction will wither and … I’m not sure what will happen to it.
Literary agents will become eBook bundlers, acting in the capacity of editors, graphic design procurers and online marketers. I doubt they’ll work on prospect; writers will likely have to pay their money and take their chances. Only agents with JDs will negotiate film rights or anything that involves serious contracts. Like producers, managers and sound engineers who used to pick and choose who they worked with, most agents will take business from wherever they can get it. Agenting might become a night or weekend job for many, as it has for former music industry folks.
Claude Nougat says
The future is NOT bleak!
E-books will expand the book market in general, bringing in lots of new readers – people who after a first jolly experience on their i-pad or kindle will go on to buy paper books for the first time in their lives!
Bookstores will have to become more imaginative to be welcoming places, like Starbucks with coffee to attract clients or organize conferences and local contests to engage the community. And the big chains could give print-on-demand services for all things digital, why not? Indeed, that's where the real competition for printed books might yet come from…
Publishers will stop being so fearful and realize that if they don't try to scrape authors naked, but instead turn them into faithful allies (for example giving them a better deal on e-book royalties and making more of an effort to support book marketing), then their prospects might really turn for the better.
There will be more Amanda Hockings coming into their fold and fewer Barry Eisler walking away from them. But the real challenge are the midlist authors who can make a big buck turning their back list into e-books. Publishers will just have to figure out a way to get into that juicy market – and they won't get into it unless they provide a service of value to the authors, like, say, marketing support and the means to fight off piracy.
Because, let's face it, the biggest danger for the digital revolution in the publishing industry is PIRACY!
Kathryn Magendie says
Whatever direction it goes, I hope I'm riding along with a big arse grin slapped across my pea-headed face!
Hart Johnson says
In my infinite wisdom… I see a lot of smaller ePublishers popping up (potentially offering PoD back-up). I have seen a few already, accepting submissions for good quality books that fall into this or that qualification but aren't as bound by the 'rules'. Big Publishing is playing very conservative right now, and I think it is creating a window for these. I like the idea because it leaves the 'quality control layer' while still opening a lot more options than there currently are. My sadness is, I don't see how bookstores can survive it.
Nobilis Reed says
The biggest changes will be at the retail level. Bookstores will become smaller boutique stores, that specialize in one genre or another, one special interest or another, mirroring the fragmentation and clique-ification of modern culture.
Publishers will operate on a different paradigm, offering real services to the author in exchange for their piece of the cover price.
Publishers will take their job of curation seriously, and will work hard to maintain brand credibility. They will pay more attention to the things people actually buy books for.
Cover prices for ebooks will go down, starting with debut authors ($0.99 will become the standard) and moving to mid-list ($2.99) and eventually to the top of the heap ($4.99). The MSRP might not look like that, but deals will be made that will get prices down to that level for any consumer who wants it.
I think the real problem is that we don't know what other role technology will take as things move along. As much as I love reading, the ART of reading itself is in danger of becoming extinct and moving reading onto devices that have other time killers and Apps isn't necessarily the best way to get more readers out there if all they're doing is playing Sudiko or Scrabble on their e-Readers. As media itself continues to change, the authors that stand to make the most change or impact are those who will be able to take advantage of this new content, whatever form it may take ranging from movie clips in the book to moving illustrations or audio parts. After all, how hard can it be to get a computer to read the book you're reading? Audio books may very well become merged with such texts or may be read by more specialized actors of large name and fame.
The Price of Tea says
I'm new to this game. Just read my first ebook yesterday. Have 1 1/2 memoirs complete…havne't queried a sole. So sorry if all this seems silly, but: I think the publishers need to get creative. Why not have their ebooks ad supported? We hated it on the web initially, and it took time, but now ads on the web are ubiquitous. Make ebooks an interactive experience (especially for the younger generation of readers)…charge a premium for that experience. Why not a subscription model? Get four books a month for $15-$30, depending on the authors. It could generate a steady stream of income to help support the print business. How about bundling ebooks. Buy the Harry Potter of the day and get 3 or four unknown/new authors in the same genre (or genre of your choice) for free. This could be a market research tool…develop some "like" button so they know who to send to print and who to keep on as an eauthor. I think the future is bright, people just have to get out of the box.
I made a life decision about a year ago. The day the last bookstore closes is the day I stop buying new books. I already own more books than I will have time to read in my remaining lifetime. I will not purchase any e-book unless it is required for my work. I will not purchase electronic versions of print magazines. I am confident the used bookstore market will thrive and resurge, especially once Kindle and the others experience the equivalent of what happened to the Playstation Network a couple months ago. (Bet money it will happen, especially once people start keeping their ebooks in the "cloud"). As a compliment, e-books are fine. They are not a replacement. And my prediction is in 5 years we will be living in a terrible society. In 10 years, after people realize how temporary e-books are and how poor replacements for real books they are, they will have come to their senses and we'll see a comeback. The people who keep using the "horse and buggy" analogy clearly have never read a real book in their life – they just skimmed the pages.
Jane Pelusey says
As a writer and a reader I am a contradiction. I love books.. the feel, the smell, the colour. But I prefer to read on my kindle. We could never have predicted these changes five years ago, so how can we even imagine what is to be in another five years.
Hang on we are in for a wild ride.