Why the Book Industry Stayed Optimistic
In 2011, e-book sales topped print sales for the first time, a trend that continued into 2012. Debates around this digital disruption in the book publishing industry, however, have been markedly hopeful about the survival of print. Mashable’s Josh Catone, for example, writes that ultimately, the choice between e-books and print books is not a zero-sum game. There is a cultural and aesthetic preciousness to the print book that cannot be achieved by digital volumes. In the Washington Post, Nicholas Carr argues that the e-book is merely another publishing format with its own unique benefits, just as paperback was to the hardcover (see also his debate with Clay Shirky on the matter). And according to Pew, 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes as well.
Whatever the arguments may be, there seems to be an undeniable optimism among many book lovers even as the industry navigates digital disruption. In this video, James McQuivey, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, explains why the publishers too, have remained uniquely optimistic in the face of digital disruption, by distinguishing the culture of the book industry from the cultures of other media industries such as film or music. Book publishers were never in it to make large amounts of money, he says. Driven by dedication to their authors and customers, they see digital disruption as a way to get more words published and more people reading.
For reasons explained in his blog post Will Gutenberg Laugh Last?, Carr says that the transition to e-reading is a slow process–growth in e-book sales, in fact, has slowed substantially. This conceivably leaves time for publishers to prepare. In this vein, McQuivey goes on to explain that because disruption has reached the book industry later than music or film, publishers have been able to learn from the disruption they’ve witnessed in other industries and plan ahead for it.
For more videos with James McQuivey or other media thinkers, visit theFJP.org.