There’s an interesting article in the current New Yorker about the future of the publishing industry. It doesn’t look bright for the Big Five publishers. On the other hand, it looks rosy for Amazon, according to the author of the article George Packer. He claims self-published Kindle e-books are bad for publishing because they’re so cheap that they’re putting the Big Five out of business.
If you ask me, anything that allows good writers to get published is a good thing. The so-called gatekeepers of publishing in New York frequently make the wrong calls and keep good writers from being published. No less than literary great Edgar Allan Poe had to self-publish some of his books.
Packer makes the erroneous assumption that anything that’s bad for the Big Five is bad for publishing and for authors, as well. Anything that’s bad for the Big Five might be bad for New York Times best-selling brand-names, such as Stephen King and Lee Child. But, then again, these guys could make it without the Big Five. The demise of the Big Five won’t effect midlist authors and other lesser-known writers who are struggling to make a living, either. These authors can self-publish. So, it looks like, if the Big Five go under, it won’t be the end of publishing. It will, however, be the end of traditional publishing.
The book business has always been a difficult market to crack unless you had connections in the right places. Amazon has opened up the market and allowed writers, who otherwise would never have gotten their works published, to sink or swim on their own in the cutthroat publishing business. These authors can learn by experience that most books don’t sell, no matter how well written they are. There just aren’t enough readers out there to make many best-sellers.