The changes in publishing are happening so fast and furious, it’s almost surreal. If someone had predicted this stuff even five years ago, people would have scoffed and called it social-science fiction. Here’s a recap of the last two weeks:
- Amazon launched a fifth publishing imprint, Thomas & Mercer, which will focus on mysteries and thrillers. Its first four titles will be available on the Kindle, in print and audio formats at amazon.com as well as in bookstores.
- Amazon hired former Time Warner Books CEO and current agent Larry Kirshbaum to head Amazon Publishing’s New York office, putting Amazon in direct competition with NY publishers.
- Amazon has asked publishers to start submitting books in epub format, paving the way for standardization of digital books. Readers and authors rejoice!
- Liberty Media, a cable conglomerate, offered to buy Barnes & Noble, and most analysts say it’s on the strength of the retailer’s e-reader (Nook) and plans to expand into global digital markets.
What does all this mean? For starters, if you can, buy stock in Amazon. ☺ And if you still want to sign a contract with a publisher, Amazon should be your first choice. I also think traditional publishing will consolidate to the point that there may only be two or three main presses, and I expect Amazon and B&N to be the dominant forces because they control distribution. B&N is likely to follow Amazon’s lead (as it has done with Nook and PubIt!) and enter the traditional publishing business, signing with authors to release books in all formats and also with e-book exclusivity clauses. This could be a negative for readers because some titles will be available only on Kindle, and some titles will be available only on Nook.
The good news for readers is that there will eventually be more standardization of e-book formats. A few years from now, any e-book you buy will be readable on every device you own... unless it was published by the competition.
For writers, it means you either get picked up by one of the Big 3, with a much better deal than any Big 6 press ever offered, or you go it alone and promote like hell. Small presses will likely disappear too.
I also believe e-book prices are going to drop significantly in the near future, driven by Amazon’s dominance as a volume retailer and by self-published authors drive to gain readership. As a reader, this is good news. As a writer, this is the one thing that makes me the most nervous.
Where do you think the industry will be in five years? Ten years?