A quick heads-up for anyone who’s not yet seen Sara Lloyd’s excellent piece for US-based library journal, Library Trends, called A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st Century, on how traditional publishers need to adapt to the new media economy – something we’re always banging on about on this blog. The whole article is now available as a PDF. Here’s a short extract:
Print sales are falling. According to the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2007 report To Read or Not to Read both reading standards and voluntary reading rates of traditional print material amongst young people are falling. Textbook publishers are fighting for sales; campaigning to alert students to the necessity of using their products. Hardback fiction has almost gone the way of the dinosaur. The open access debate rages on. Publishers and retailers have consolidated. More and more books are produced, but there is less and less choice on the high street. Leisure time is transferring away from books and reading, away from television even, to the Web; to social networking sites, blogs, instant messaging, video and music file sharing sites. The attention economy is shrinking, fast. Academic research is – for many students – all about search. Let’s face it, for most students, actually, it’s all about Google. Who needs books anymore? More to the point, who needs publishers?
In an ‘always on’ world in which everything is increasingly digital, where content is increasingly fragmented and ‘bite-sized’, where ‘prosumers’ merge the traditionally disparate roles of producer and consumer, where search replaces the library and where multimedia mash-ups – not text – holds the attraction for the digital natives who are growing up fast into the mass market of tomorrow, what role do publishers still have to play and how will they have to evolve to hold on to a continuing role in the writing and reading culture of the future? Will there even be a writing and reading culture as we know it, tomorrow? Is the publishing industry acting fast enough and working creatively enough to adapt to the new information and leisure economies?