An Industry Turned Upside Down: Book Publishing Faces Huge Changes

In light of the recent collapse of the Borders corporation, things are looking shaky for booksellers, publishers and writers alike. Borders’ demise is the first major sign that those who predicted that Amazon and ebooks would run traditional bookstores out of business may be right.

For those of us preparing to enter the book industry, it is terrifying.

This New York Times article discusses how the issue of electronic media in publishing is dominating conversation within the industry. Students at Columbia University’s six-week Publishing Course have been inundated with the message that everything about publishing is changing — and there are no guarantees about what aspects of the industry will survive the shift.

One of the lecturers, Douglas Stewart of Sterling Lord Literistic, is quoted in the article as saying, “It is a really scary time to go into the business, and I’m sure they’re hearing that.  We’re all thinking that as we look out at the sea of eager faces — I wonder if they should be doing that right now?”

As a student currently enrolled in the Denver Publishing Institute, I am really interested in the answer to that question. The Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) is an intense four-week graduate certification course that introduces students to many aspects of the publishing industry, including editing, marketing and sales. Denver differs from other publishing courses in that it focuses heavily on book publishing as opposed to magazine publishing.

This is my second week out in Denver and I have already learned a ton about the publishing industry — but most of what I have learned is that no one knows what the future holds.

People who go into publishing aren’t interested in money. We aren’t looking to get famous or go to glamorous Hollywood parties. From what I’ve seen at DPI so far, we mostly just love books — and we want to center our lives around them.

Half of the 98 students in our class journeyed out to see the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 despite the fact that we had class at 9:00 the next morning. Many people pull out novels during lunch breaks, and general book-nerdery is apparent in every class as we eagerly hang on the words of lecturers who instruct us in the fine points of line editing and book publishing contracts. It’s sad that an industry that has so much passion and genuine love behind it may be on the brink of extinction.

Although Borders is gone, the printed book should stay alive. There are too many people who love the feel of a book in their hand to let this be the end of Gutenberg’s great invention. Ebooks are great, but they shouldn’t be the only books.

My hope is that those who love printed books will continue to support local and chain bookstores. Until changes within the industry slow down, however, book publishing will have an uncertain future.

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Image: winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

30 comments

Walter G.
Walter G.4 years ago

Books replaced stone tablets.and the revolutionary wheel starts another revolution. With the planed crowded as it is and worse in the future, information formerly relegated to books now sits in electronic storage.

Maarja L.
Maarja L.4 years ago

I don't think I'll ever get a Kindle or something of it's kind. I have trouble reading from the screen for prolonged time, it makes me fidgety and annoyed the way a paper book never does (not to mention eyes getting more tired). And when I have paper books, I can stare at my bookshelf and be happy in a way that a bunch of files cannot make me.

Ben Klinkovsky
Ben Klinkovsky4 years ago

In a few seasons there going to be an announcement, that Kimball disorder is damaging to eyesight. Personally, I feel that "real readers" need a book in the hand,to flip back and forward, dogear(ouch) if necessary and tuck under your pillow till tonight. Also does anyone realize that those Kimball things are too thin for people with arthritis to hold? Oh-ooo I shouldn't have let that one out. Anyway its much more economical to get second hand books from Amazon or Alibris, Half-off or paperback swapping for free. Coffee table books-------the great unseens are not going out of style. When i finish a book i drop them off at the old peoples residences, homeless peeps or swap them for free You cant do that with a Kimball thing!!

Charlene S.
Charla D.4 years ago

I agree with many of the comments here. I don't think paper books are going away, at least not anytime soon. I don't think bricks and mortar bookstores will disappear altogether either. The big chains, like Borders, can't compete against Amazon, but I think Borders going under may actually be a good thing for the smaller, local, "Mom & Pop" bookstores.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

A book is a friend!

Danuta W.
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Interesting! Thank you.

Patricia M.
Patricia M.4 years ago

Border's is only a chain of book stores, this is not the only place to purchase new books to read, novels and other subjects.

Electronic devises can fail. real books can't & at a very early age a schoolchild is taught to take care of their books, so this stays with us through life.

Now if they are trying to make a statement about the forests in danger as paper comes from trees and a wood base, then perhaps we need to stop developers from cutting them down for concrete jungle malls & housing developments that are not selling!

Carol B.
Carol Burk4 years ago

The paper book in the hand is there for years. Even very many years. There are books many hundreds of years old in museums and in private collections and even in libraries. I have a book of my great aunt's that was given to her more than 100 years ago. It is in good shape and I can read it. But my Kindle is just for trying out -I have not yet got the hang of it- and it needs to be charged, updated, and registered. In the near future perhaps "my" Kindle will be passé and I will need a new model with the trouble of learning that and then putting "my" books into the new little machine. I will do it, but I will always buy regular books as well.

Lindsey DTSW
.4 years ago

I refuse to use e-books. I love the feel of a real book in my hands and enjoy having them on my shelves. The e-book reader (I tried a friend's once) simply wasn't comfortable and the screen contained far less in the way of words, which meant more "turning" of pages.

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey4 years ago

My publisher is of the (hopeful) opinion that e-books will eventually support the publication of paper books. So is my agent. I like both forms. The important thing is to get people reading.