I am taking a week off interviewing the good people at Corvus and I want to look at the future of publishing, and like the three witches in Macbeth I’m going to make a prediction. OK, I’m not Nostradamus, and Al Stewart will not be writing a ten minute epic ballad about me, but then the music industry isn’t what it was when Al released Past, Present and Future back in 1974.
In terms of the new technologies, there is a slight Dejavu it feels like we have all been here before, in the late 1990’s when people began to share music files. There are many parallels between publishing and the music industry and many lessons that publishing in general could learn from the failure of the music industry to come to terms with the possibilities of new technology. Now that one in four adults in the UK has a Kindle or other electronic reading device the world of downloading has arrived big time.
People of a certain age and an obsession with music, will remember with fondness the days of the local record shop, sadly those days are gone. The demise of all those local, independent and chain record shops is down to the change in the manner we access music. No longer is it difficult to find obscure bands or rare tracks,plus it is cheaper to buy online, and if like me, you use a storage device such as an i-pod, then you can bi-pass compact discs altogether. The next casualty of the technology will be the local book shop.
It is to misquote Van Dyke Parks it is The Clang of The Digital Reaper, (I think I am in a mid-1970’s mindset today). It takes no great insight to make the claim that the bookshop is going to be as rare a sighting as a record shop in five years time. As tragic as this is the interesting thing is what will happen to the big publishing houses? Are they ready for the Hard Rain of digital downloading? I don’t know, I suspect the larger the company the longer it takes to respond to any change. The big winner of course will be Amazon, by creating the Kindle you could say Amazon had won before we knew there was even a competition.
I think the opportunities are there for the small press publishers, and the independent authors out there. Look at Timothy Mo and how he has circumvented the traditional publishing methods, he is an example to us all. We at Corvus are in the process of setting up a digital download page, where you can load our stories direct onto your reading device, or at least you will be able to order on line.
I think I am still coming to terms with the projected loss of book shops. Here in Taunton, our one independent bookshop, Brendon Books (http://brendonbooksonline.tbpcontrol.co.uk/tbp.direct/customeraccesscontrol/home.aspx?d=brendonbooksonline&s=C&r=10000088&ui=0&bc=0) has been selling a mixture of new and second hand books for some time. I find myself spending longer browsing these days as there are always unexpected titles, so the picture is not all bad news. What do you think? Why not let me know your thoughts on the digital revolution. Anybody know which band sang the song I used for the title? If you do then you are an anorak!