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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments From literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog on November 10th. For those of us who are wondering how these sad economic times are affecting our beloved books. The gist: buy NEW books by your favorite authors! This is so hard for me as I love to buy used or borrow from the library, but for those authors you really love if you have some extra money this holiday season...BUY NEW!

Tough Times and the Publishing Industry Stimulus Package

The publishing industry is so vast and varied that it is often difficult to get a true pulse of the industry. Often one genre will do really well while another one is suffering, or one agent will struggle while another is having an auction a day, and particularly when you're down in the trenches it's not easy to get a sense of the bird's eye view.

But these days it's pretty much inescapable: these are tough times.

Now, first of all, we must remember the advice of the late Douglas Adams and Don't Panic. The book industry has been through worse times than this, people will always read books, books will still be published, and until that changes most of us will still be here.

But any illusions the industry might have had about escaping the recession are going the way of a Bachelor engagement.

On Friday GalleyCat reported that Borders has told an anonymous distributor that they will not be paying them for two months, and this has forced that distributor to ask publishers to decide whether they want to ship to Borders. The distributor is nevertheless recommending that publishers continue to fill orders, but this is undoubtedly prompting all sorts of contingency plans at publishing houses.

Also last week, Moonrat posted about the October publishing crash and the factors therein (and October numbers didn't even factor into some disappointing end-of-quarter results).

My fellow book lovers, let me just second Moonrat and endorse her Publishing Industry Stimulus Package: buy books, and buy them often.

Most importantly: BUY NEW BOOKS

Sure, not everyone can afford books, and I understand. That's why we have libraries. But the best way you can help the publishing industry and the authors you love is to buy their books, and to buy them new.

This isn't a time for cheaping out on the authors you love. Publishers are going to be making very tough decisions about which authors are going to survive and which will be dropped. They're being extremely selective about supporting new authors. You can do your part by buying new, asking for new books for the holidays, and encouraging your friends to do the same.

So my 2008 holiday season campaign slogan: BUY NEW BOOKS? YES WE CAN.

message 2: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Unfortunately, the writers who will suffer most from this publishing economic shake out won't be established writers with followings, but new and/or aspiring writers. There are other factors at play here than just economic hard times. Print publishing at all levels is on the wane. Newspapers are going under and it's telling that Tina Brown's latest start up, The Daily Beast, is not a magazine, but a website. Although I love the printed word, especially books, in less that ten years, we may be reading our favorite authors on our cell phones.

message 3: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Oh, Deborah! What a horrible thought!!!

message 4: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Not me. I will always, always, always go with a real book. "Antique" books are just fine with me if that's what I'll have to do. But I won't. There is a whole world out there that either is not or prefers to not be "hooked up." Plus... why would you want to have to recharge a battery to keep reading?

As for the whole buying new books thing... eh. Life goes on. The economy will ebb and flow. People will still read. I prefer used books whenever possible. But that's as much because I like the fact that it has a history as anything.

I'm a writer who will be reliant on people buying my books one day soon, but if it's the difference between my book or a meal - go with the meal. I'll find a way to make it and hopefully so will you... and maybe you can still enjoy my book sometime down the road!

message 5: by Katri (new)

Katri (Valancy) | 107 comments I agree with whichwaydidshego, I have no plans of starting to read books on a cell phone or whatever when I can have a real book! And most people who read a lot are like that, I'm pretty sure, and it's them who buy most books. Even though it's for some time been possible to read books online, most people I know only do that when they can't get their hands on a real book. Different forms of e-books can be useful e.g. with books that are out of print and there's not enough demand to justify making a new edition. But most people don't find them so comfortable to read, I think. And they don't have the luxury value that a real book does when buying a gift - it looks much nicer to wrap up a real book for Christmas!

message 6: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Here's something I've been wondering. Although I really love physical books, I'm also concerned about the environment. While e-books, etc are much better from an earth standpoint, I can't curl up in bed with my computer (even a laptop would be awkward!) So does anybody know if any of the publishing firms use recycled paper? Or even if it's feasible for them to do so?

message 7: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments This is another reason I like to buy used.

message 8: by Dini, the master of meaning (new)

Dini | 691 comments Mod
On the other hand, computers use a lot of energy as well.

message 9: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments Very true, Dini!

message 10: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Not only that but there is a growing problem of disposal of old electronics which leech all sorts of chemicals into the system if just tossed onto a trash heap or into a dump which is why they want us to take them to a central collection point and they will properly dispose of all those things.

Trees -- well, yes, trees. I guess used books are a solution for most books and I do buy a lot of used books. Then again -- what doesn't eat up resources and not replenish or cause grief? It's a growing dilemma in many aspects of our lives.

TV walls, anyone? I'm just kidding of course but it does give one pause. And for those who weren't in on the reading -- the TV walls references Fahrenheit 451 -- go check out that discussion when you get time.

message 11: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Dec 10, 2008 04:39AM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I'm pretty sure that my rather large book collection used less trees that, say, the home in which I live... Or, for instance, all the wrapping paper I've used in my lifetime. Just a thought.

Funny thing... after writing all that about used books, I heard an interview today on NPR with an author and was so struck with how what he was sharing related exactly to what I have been facing lately that I went out an bought a new copy straightaway. To be fair, I did check two used bookstores first but wasn't willing to wait beyond that.

By the way, I'm so excited to read it that I had to force myself to finish the HP book I was nearing the end of - and I LOVE those books!

Oh, and the wrapping paper thing? I'm going to try to find the time in the next week to go get material and create bags and wraps that can be reused each year. Just a little worried since I haven't sewn since like... junior high. Way easy way to wrap, though!!!

message 12: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments That's a great idea, Michele. I've got paper holiday bags that I reuse year after year, but the idea of decorated boxes and fabric bags is really neat! :-)

message 13: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W (ericw) Ginnie wrote: "After reading in the NYT that Random House was laying off staff, several publishing houses are no longer paying advances or taking on new authors, this just arrived in my e-mail box from Booksquare..."

Interesting that these comments should be coming from Tina Brown. She took the New Yorker, a magazine I read routinely and almost destroyed it. Thanks to David Remnick it has returned to its former insightful and essential self. I have never quite forgiven her for those years when I was forced to cancel my subscription during her reign.

message 14: by Kristel (new)

Kristel | 164 comments Hi Ginnie,
Couldn't agree more with that mail. It's the same everywhere...the incompetent high level managers killed of the banking industry in my country by lack of long term vision and now everything else is collapsing.

Really a shame about the publishing companies. Even if we shall all read books on pda's or cell phones, even then the creative industries need support! Buy books!

Change, yes we can, if we don't allow those incompetents to rule the businesses again after the rebuild.

message 15: by Ann (new)

Ann | 345 comments What an interesting post, Kathryn!

I agree that I have a hard time warming up to the idea of "cozying up with a good...cell phone, or something" - while I can appreciate the ease and helpfulness of electronic books, I'm not sure I'd want to read my favorite book on one...
And yes, I've wondered about the paper usage, too. I do recall something about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" being printed on recycled paper ... so you could probably start there and see who else does that. :)

Regarding the "used vs. new" discussion, I kind of think that's why so many publishers are trying to "find the next Harry Potter." I mean, I know there's several reasons, but because of the amazing amount of discussion, speculation, and need to know what happens "right away" (and yes, I'm one of them!) publishers were pretty much assured that there'd be huge purchases of the books NEW and IMMEDIATELY. I think that's why there's so many "midnight release parties" now - making it an event in the hope that people will turn out and "have to have the book right away". Anyway, I have no authority on this, just my own speculation ;) I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it's interesting to watch how the publishing houses market their books now.

On a similar (and yet totally different) note, has anyone checked out the new "39 Clues"? I'm super curious because isn't it supposed to be a multi-media thing? I'm curious and yet suspicious...

What I'm curious to see in the book industry is how publishing houses are going to manage the balance between too much and too little. I.e. I don't think they can totally shut down their new releases (at least, not for an extended period of time) but I also don't think they'll want to put a lot of money into new stuff. So, maybe they'll just start marketing their established writers more and more. It could be a good thing for new writers that are already published but didn't do too well initially... hmm... I wonder....

message 16: by Deborah (last edited Dec 11, 2008 11:05AM) (new)

Deborah | 283 comments Eric wrote: "Ginnie wrote: "After reading in the NYT that Random House was laying off staff, several publishing houses are no longer paying advances or taking on new authors, this just arrived in my e-mail box ..."
Eric, I think about Tina Brown the same way I think about Madonna. I don't particular like or dislike her music, but I admire her as a business person. She's focussed, tough, insightful and, more than anything, knows her product and knows her market. Tina Brown likewise (the unfortunate New Yorker incident aside).

Some time in the 1980s, when MBAs were cranked out like the chocolates on Lucy and Ethel's conveyor belt, the idea took hold that business in itself was a business, revolving around the amorphous concept of management "style." So a guy who was successful as the CEO of Coca Cola would then be equally successful as the CEO of United Airlines. Would the Big 3 in Detroit be in financial trouble if anybody in top management knew how to change the oil in their car?

I am cautiously optimistic, however. I'm a huge music fan, and I used to love getting a new lp record. Everything about them, the covers, the liner notes, the black vinyl, was pleasing. I grudgingly moved on to CDs, and now really like downloading mp3s, which reminds me of buying 45 rpm singles when I was a young girl. But electronic connectivity has, in the end, been very good for musicians and music fans. It provides a forum for musicians to connect directly with their market, forcing the music industry dinosaurs to play catch up. And I think the same may be true in publishing. It will survive as an industry, but the process of getting the product to the market may change drastically.

message 17: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 361 comments That's a great point about the "next Harry Potter" and how publishers are trying to tap into that new/immediate appeal. I think it's worked with "Twilight" to a lesser, but still vastly successful, extent. And I, too, have wondered abuot "39 Clues" but haven't heard any feedback on it from anyone I know.

message 18: by Ann (new)

Ann | 345 comments Yes, I agree that "Twilight" got a similar type release as HP (not, as you said, to the same degree by far, but similar concept). It will be interesting to see what the next book for that will be!:)

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