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Will Snooki Kill The Printed Book?

That just might happen.

According to this eye-opening article, celebrities like Snooki could eventually be the death of the paper book. It sounds like the publishing industry has figured out how to adapt, so books in paper form could go the way of the vinyl record.

I hate that, and don’t want to be believe it. But maybe I’m in denial.

Sarah Lacy over at Pando Daily had this to say:

When you see Snooki’s book on the New York Times Best Seller List, you know publishing is in trouble.

You can blame readers and say publishing is just giving the public what they want. But that’s only half the problem.

The rest is a lazy publishing industry that does far too little of the work that got them here: Discovering new authors and giving them a shot. Instead, they go for the lazy lay-up: Overpaying on celebrity memoirs and pop culture phenomenons with a built in audience.

With book publishers desperate for money, they take the easy way out–which is publishing a book “written” by Snooki and the like. One unnamed industry insider sent an email to Sara and explained how Amazon is set to take them all down:

We can’t pay $1 million for books anymore. Amazon could probably afford to lose $20 million/year in their publishing arm just to put the other publishers out of business. I think that’s what they’re trying to do–throw money around in an industry that doesn’t have any, until Amazon becomes not only the only place where you buy books, but the only place that publishes books, too.

So rather than getting a 30% of an ebook (with the other 70% being split between the publisher and author), they’ll be getting a 70% cut (with the other 30% going right to the author). Funny thing is that it’s actually better for authors.

I’ll be honest: I use Amazon for a lot of my book buying. We have indie bookstores in Nashville, actually Ann Patchett recently opened one. But, sometimes, when you work 40 hours a week, it’s just a matter of convenience. Other times, it’s simply difficult to find certain books from a list of 101, so it’s just easier to order all of them in one swoop.

On one hand, I’m glad to know authors actually fare better from Amazon sales. I’m more than happy to support the authors. But, on the other hand, I don’t want to be a part of killing the printed book.

Where do you stand on any of this?

(Image: Upper West Side Blog)

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Siuon #

    I think the publishing industry is heading to the wrong direction. Finding new authors with solid writing skills is one way out. Improving the printing quality is another way to prevent ebooks from replacing printed books. Compared to book printed elsewhere, U.S. paperbacks are of the worst printing and binding quality.

    Like

    January 23, 2012
    • I think if someone wants to read digital books, no amount of the change in paper quality would change their mind. I think that’s just the way we are going, even though I don’t like it.

      Like

      January 23, 2012
  2. Here’s a contrarian view on this “issue”: trash books like celeb memoirs could be a good thing for book stores and the publishing industry, if only they’d be smart about them. These kinds of books could be a kind of “gateway drug,” the books that get people reading. Then, if the book stores and publishing houses spent their time and effort on smart marketing to pull those readers into other areas of literature, rather than on whining and sniveling about how terrible (translated, “not literary”) those books are, they could be building their market base.

    But no, they’d rather whine, snivel, focus on the short term, and blame Amazon and their customers. That’s easier. Foolish, but easier.

    Like

    January 23, 2012
    • Good points. It’s hard for me to envision someone reading Snooki one week and Salinger the next week, but who knows.

      Like

      January 23, 2012
    • Trash books are necessary for publishers to cross-finance other books. The questions are (1) will publishers do it and (2) will readers buy the other books?

      Like

      January 24, 2012
  3. I’ve been wrestling with this issue for a few weeks now. While I may still shop Amazon for DVDs (those episodes of Doctor Who can get quite expensive), I refuse to buy books from them anymore. If a book is recent and easily available, then I have a couple of preferred indie bookstores in town. If it is out of print, I have started using Bookfinder.com, which links to many online sources, Amazon included.

    Like

    January 23, 2012
  4. I agree on books like Snooki’s (or even Twilight) being the type of books that get people interested in reading. It’s always a start.

    I got an e-reader for Christmas and absolutely love it, but I’ve found myself buying and reading just as many print books as I did before. The e-reader is great for reading older books that are public domain or for reading while traveling/commuting, but it’s still nice to spend an evening with a good paperback. I hope that paperbacks will always be around, but I wouldn’t miss hardcover textbooks.

    I also have a hard time demonizing Amazon, because I’m old enough to remember the days of not having a good local bookstore to go to. When the nearest bookstore is more than ten miles away and has no selection, Amazon can be a lifesaver.

    Like

    January 23, 2012
  5. ‘Going the way of vinyl’ – a highly collectable, celebrated format which most good musicians still like to produce versions of their work on. Better than going the way of cassettes. Maybe there will be less pulp fiction and celeb memoirs on paper in the future, I don’t believe real books will die out too drastically, we just need to change and adapt as an industry. And not sell our souls entirely to Amazon (just the toe of our souls, to keep food on the table).

    Like

    January 23, 2012
  6. I think the problem is twofold: lazy readers AND lazy publishers. I don’t think one problem can be solved without the other. The fact that Snooki’s memoir is on the NY Times Best Seller list is appalling, but not entirely surprising–like the article said, the publishers are giving audiences “what they want.” I agree with RossBLampert in hoping that crap books like Snooki’s will at least get people reading something, at which point smart bookstores and publishers could use marketing to draw those people into other areas of literature, but I’m not too confident that it will. I know from experience with books (and many other things) that people tend to stay inside their comfort zones, a habit I struggle with myself. And so I wonder if people would actually branch out into other literature…

    Like

    January 23, 2012
    • I agree. I will grant the point that reading anything is better than reading nothing, but I’m not sure if reading celeb bios is a gateway to actual novels that would keep the publishing industry afloat.

      Like

      January 23, 2012
  7. I love bookstores. But I will only buy my books there if they offer the same price as Amazon does.

    In Germany, the publishers set the prices for the books and Amazon or chains are not allowed to undercut this price, so there is no price competition. If there is a bookstore near or if I know I will visit one soon, I’ll get my books from them.

    When I lived in the UK, Amazon was usually cheaper, especially because they often did not charge for postage. I ordered almost all of my books from Amazon. Sorry for the bookstores.

    Now I live in Malta where books in bookstores are quite expensive, so Amazon is cheaper even if I include the postage from the UK. Absurd. I’ll buy from Amazon.

    I don’t think readers can be expected to behave in any other than an economically sensible way, unless they are related to somebody who owns a bookstore.

    Like

    January 24, 2012
    • I love bookstores myself, but I’m less worried about the demise of bookstores and more worried about the demise of the BOOK. Yeah yeah, e-readers are great, you can read them in the sun, they’re lightweight, whatever. But I love the feeling of holding a book. I’ve used a Kindle and haven’t absolutely hated the experience, but it takes getting used to. And that’s what I’m worried about–the fact that Snooki’s book is on the Best Seller list (that it exists at all, really) means publishing is in trouble. I don’t mind buying books from Amazon, as long as they’re BOOKS and not digital files, you know? If Amazon is going to kill all the publishers, they should at least establish its own publishing house that does more than publish e-books. As with my other reply above, I’m not too hopeful this will actually happen, but a girl can dream, yeah?

      Like

      January 24, 2012
      • danielbenjaminlamb #

        Agreed. Nothing compares to the experience of reading an actual book. The smell, the feel… they cannot be replicated by any electronic device. I’ll keep my paper books.

        Like

        January 31, 2012
  8. I stick my head in the sand and pretend nothing’s wrong.

    Honestly? I’m sort of not sure how I relate to this because I’m a hardcore library enthusiast. The only books I receive are given as gifts, not books I bought myself. The only books I buy, are gifts to others.

    Maybe that’s part of it. I can’t imagine gifting an e-book but maybe I just don’t have the right sense of imagination.

    As for Snooki (whatever THAT is) and other trash– it’s always existed in literature and always will. It’s not going to kill anything. The publishers are doing it themselves. I also don’t think of Amazon as going on some publisher killing bender just like I don’t think Apple went on a CD killing bender. Publishers need to get with it the same way music and film producers need to get with it. This whole clawing desperately to an old system is silly and pointless. They pour millions of dollars into protecting something that is an antiquated system. Let go and revamp. Get wild and creative.

    Like

    January 25, 2012
  9. I thought I would always be a hardcore book supporter but after two years with an e reader I only buy my favorite books. There are many reasons – weight of the books I read, convenience to be able to get the book cheaper and quicker, and I can get ARC’s. I still am a big believer in the “book” but publishers need to get creative about what they publish in book format. Childrens books, or highly illustrated books are the ones that will always have a place in the market. The books themselves need to have a physical appeal. I have a hard time sympathizing with publishers because they can’t compete because they have dominated for years without having to adapt their business model. On a pure business perspective they have become stagnant. They allowed Amazon to outsmart them. If they are unwilling to change or adapt they don’t have a right to retain our business, especially when they have been taking advantage of authors for years. I love small bookstores – that is where I buy the physical books I get, but I don’t feel bad for Random House etc. If they aren’t willing to compete and strategize a new business model they don’t deserve our “loyalty.” This is the same concept of when the light bulb marginalized gas lamps. I don’t know about you but I will not use a gas lamp today because of loyalty – it’s an inferior product. This sounds awfully harsh, and it’s not meant to be but if libraries are allowing you to ‘check out’ e-books and some places even e-readers and provide multimedia options for children and adults to experience I think the big publishers need to have a serious talk about how to innovate and revitalize their business model.

    Like

    August 27, 2014
  10. Iohb #

    I am a self-published author with Amazon books, and I have to say that self-publishing is, without a doubt, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. For years, I have laboured in the dark, attempting to get published in the traditional (paper) way, and I have met with nothing but failure and discouragement. If Amazon is putting stodgy, lazy old traditional publishing out of business, then good for them. At least Amazon gave me a chance, I will be forever grateful to them for that.

    I have eleven finished novels sitting on a shelf at home, and every month or so I finish another one. I have sent every one of these out to traditional publishers over the years, and have received nothing but rejection notice after rejection notice. I am utterly disgusted by this, yet I am also not terribly surprised. I write books that are of a quite radical creative nature, pushing ideas, characters and plot to extraordinary lengths and dimensions, in some ways that are truly unusual. Such extremes are often not seen in traditionally-published books, which tend to produce more moderate fare, unless the writer has had some previous success, or just happens to get really, really lucky – as in, for example, the case of horror author Clive Barker, and his extraordinary Books of Blood – which might just be the most radically creative books ever written.

    Not very often will you find a publisher or an editor willing to take a chance on books that extreme, and TRUE originality is very seldom seen in the traditional publishing industry.

    Traditional publishers also tend to be very bad at recognizing true genius when they see it. Harry Potter, for example, was rejected by (I think) THIRTY DIFFERENT PUBLISHERS, when it was first proposed. And William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist was almost not published at all, because no one wanted to take a chance on a book that different or original. I wonder how it feels now, be one of those publishers who rejected Harry Potter – they must kick themselves every day of their lives for being so short-sighted and lazy, for not recognizing actual brilliance when it was right before their eyes. Serves them right.

    I sound rather bitter, I suppose, but I think it is with good reason. Traditional publishing is very bad for creativity. If your books don’t fit a very particular mold, if they don’t have JUST ENOUGH DIALOGUE OR DESCRIPTION, or if they are written in a style that is a little bit too unusual – or if, perhaps, the subject-matter is too original – then they probably won’t be published, no matter how rewarding or thrilling they may be to read. I honestly have to wonder how many extraordinary works of genius have been shot down by the lazy and exclusionistic traditional publishers of the world, which we will now never see; how many amazing writers, I wonder, have been so discouraged by rejection by traditional publishers that they have simply given up? It is a crime that some things get published – and it is a crime that some things don’t. If Amazon is indeed putting these tepid, monolithic publishers out of business, then I say it is about time. I will not miss them in even the smallest way.

    Like

    January 16, 2016

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 5 Reasons Indie Publishing is the Future | Wise, Ink.
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