In the article, “Where Is Publishing Headed?: The Future Of Books In 7 Easy Steps” by John B. Thompson, Thopson discusses the dramatic changes and challenges the industry has seen “since Gutenberg”.
Thompson focuses in on two major process changes in the industry including social and economic changes, and the digital conversion. In regards to social and economic changes, Thompson points out that the industry is dominated by giants. This includes New York and London having the largest publishing companies still in existence, and Amazon’s penetration into the publishing landscape. Thompson also points out that e-books have successfully integrated the traditional publishing market, and are not going anywhere.
Thompson goes on to make seven predictions about where the industry is headed. He first predicts that Amazon will grow even larger and more successful in their ventures which will cause large chain book stores to go out of business such as Barnes and Noble chains. The elimination of large chain book stores goes with Thompson’s third prediction that if their are fewer retail stores, then there is less visibility for books to be noticed. It basically eliminates the window shopping aspect of retail for books, and he says forces publishers to increase marketing strategies online.
Thompson believes that all publishers will fall into financial difficulty. He says that small publishing companies will go out of business, and medium to large sized companies will notice increased pressure. He believes that these companies will fold to the publishing giants of the industry to control the trade. He also states in his fifth prediction that large publishing companies will see a decrease in physical publishing which will cause them to reduce costs.
Thompson also predicts a continued surge to digital publishing, and how electronic sales will be a significant portion of a publisher’s revenue.
While I think Thompson has a valid point about how there have been dramatic social and economic changes to the publishing industry, I think his view is overall very negative. He didn’t show any research on how digital sales have helped publishers, or the vast opportunities digital media opens for publishers. In fact, he didn’t include any statistics at all for any publishing sales in the last few years. He also didn’t cover any new publishers that have opened, or existing publishers that have closed.
While his concerns are legitimate, I don’t believe publishing is heading towards extinction like he eludes to. Many different industries have gone through drastic changes as well with changing social and economic factors, but the beauty of business is that it can adapt with the change. It has to.