Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is This The Most Exciting Time Ever For Book Lovers?

Jason Pinter - Bestselling Thriller Writer
Posted: February 16, 2010 at Huffington Post

Amidst all the doom and gloom (Books are dying! Print is dead! The Kindle will destroy us all! Big Publishers want to kill your pets! ARMAGEDDON IS NIGH!!!), I just want to take a moment to proclaim that this is quite possibly the most exciting period to be a reader in my lifetime. Think about it: when was the last time books and publishing were as much a part of the daily conversation as they are now? So enough with the catastrophic headlines. They might draw traffic and get people riled up, but they're empty bloviations. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, the written word is healthier than ever.

Sure individual books and authors have garnered their share of headlines--J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Alice Sebold, etc...--but in my thirty years on this planet, I cannot remember a time when so many people were discussing books themselves, the future of books, and what it all means for everyone involved. All in all books have a 'buzz' about them that I can't recall ever sensing. The future of publishing feels like an important discussion well outside the cul-de-sac of the industry itself, and there are more books and book-related discussions than I can remember in a long, long time.

So this is my 'The glass is half full' column, but in fact I think the glass is way, way more than half full. Let's look at a few of these discussions:

--Ebooks are on the rise. Hachette Book Group--one of the "Big 5" publishers--recently stated that ebooks accounted for 5% of their earnings in December 2009. Remember, this is a billion dollar company, so 5% is hardly small potatoes. Back in October, Michael Pietsch, Publisher of Little, Brown, stated that for LB's biggest authors, ebooks accounted for up to 15% of total sales.

--A movie based on one of the most popular children's series in the last decade opened to huge numbers. No, not "Twilight," but "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief", based on the first book in Rick Riordan's series, which grossed over $38,000,000 over the President's Day weekend. Oh, and that whole "Twilight" thing? Well "Twilight: New Moon" has grossed over $295,000,000 since opening in October. Add to that the huge success of "The Blind Side," "Sherlock Holmes," "Up In The Air," "Dear John" and "Precious," and the hottest properties in Hollywood are based on literature. And that's not even counting films and television shows based on comic books and graphic novels.

--The Amazon/Macmillan brouhaha over ebook pricing spilled over into the mainstream media, covered everywhere from the New York Times to Gizmodo and earning comments from corporate titans like Rupert Murdoch. In the midst of al this, there was a public backlash towards the retailer in support of Macmillan authors whose books had their 'Buy Now' buttons removed, essentially cutting off their sales from that outlet. When was the last time the public at large cared this much about a corporate dispute about the pricing of books? Book publishing and pricing is no longer Inside Baseball, but something that the public now realizes impacts content creators and distributors. I say that's a good thing.

--The Apple iPad was premiered, with Steve Jobs set to launch the new iBooks site, which he hopes will do for books what iTunes did for music. Between the iPad and the Barnes & Noble Nook we are ensured that there will be competition for the Amazon Kindle, so that books can be fairly priced and published can find the perfect X/Y axis at which to price ebooks to sell the most copies without being bullied by one company with a grossly large market share.

--At CES, no fewer than a dozen e-readers were showcased and will soon hit the market. Clearly many manufacturers feel this is a growing industry, and one that publishers hope will expand the book market as a whole, drawing in hesitant and non-readers open to newfangled technology.

Read Jason Pinter's full piece at The Huffington Post.

No comments: