In many ways, things have never been better for book readers. Amazon puts reviews at your fingertips, we have easy access to out-of-print titles through eBay and efficient inter-library loan services, and tons of out-of-copyright classics are only a click away. But as this NYMag article (“The End“) spells it out, the publishing industry is reeling from the changes.
The demise of publishing has been
predicted since the days of Gutenberg. But for most of the past
century–through wars and depressions–the business of books has jogged
along at a steady pace. It’s one of the main (some would say only)
advantages of working in a “mature” industry: no unsustainable highs,
no devastating lows. A stoic calm, peppered with a bit of gallows
humor, prevailed in the industry.
Survey New York’s oldest
culture industry this season, however, and you won’t find many stoics.
What you will find are prophets of doom, Cassandras in blazers and
black dresses arguing at elegant lunches over What Is to Be Done. Even
best-selling publishers and agents fresh from seven-figure deals worry
about what’s coming next. Two, five years from now–who knows? Life
moves fast in the waning era of print; publishing doesn’t.