Friday, June 1, 2007

Book Trade Yearns for Next Blockbuster?

From a June 1, 2007 New York Times report by Motoko Rich:
"Sales Barely Up, Book Trade Yearns for Next Blockbuster" —

In the absence of a new Harry Potter book or a blockbuster by Dan Brown, the publishing industry struggled to sell more copies last year than it did the year before, according to a report to be released today by the Book Industry Study Group, a publishing trade association.

“There was a time when publishers thought that people wouldn’t pay above $25 for a book,” said Albert N. Greco, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Institute for Publishing Research who analyzed the data in the study. These days, cover prices can exceed $25. With heavy discounts at chain bookstores and other outlets, consumers often pay less, but the publisher still nets half of the cover price. “Even raising the price by $1 a year, or even 50 cents, you still get more money,” said Mr. Greco, who is also a professor of marketing at Fordham University.

Okay, I get that the book industry is a business, but come on! How did it ever get this bad? Books are not just another comditiy to be traded like grapefruit and tires, they are a pivital source of a culture's intellectualism. They are where we share our insight on love, politics, and the very meaning of life. Now our main concern is the search for another celebrity blockbuster?

The quality of our books is reflected in the over concern with large sales. The American book industry wants books that can appeal to a large segment of the population and quality be damned. This happend to the film industry: they were constantly in search for the next blockbuster and movies turned into a joke. What's saving that industry are small independant filmmakers and film festivals. We need the same thing in the book industry. We, bibilophiles, need to take this thing back.


Karina Fabian said...

I completely agree, Jenn! There's a lot of tripe out there that become bestsellers because they're "commercial." Meanwhile, a lot of great, thought-provoking (or just high-quality entertaining) stuff gets pushed to the side if it's published at all.

Some in the industry say that they need the blockbusters in order to afford the better but not-so-big sellers. I have a lot of sympathy for them. The question, then, is how do we get the quality stuff to sell better than the lesser stuff with a "trick"?

Sadly, the market is also flooded with very low-quality tripe coming from smaller presses and vanity presses. It's so easy to write and publish a book, that many do so before they're ready. That means those who are serious about the craft need to be serious about their own marketing, too.

Karina Fabian
editor, Infinite Space, Infinite God,

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