Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Past Future of Publishing.

When most writers think about the future of publishing they think about a world where the ease of e-publishing leads to the market being flooded by millions of wannabe authors. How is a new author going to get noticed in amongst all those books?  But what if the 2050 bestseller list looks something like this:

Global Best Selling List 2050

1. I Married my Pregnant Android – Bob Katter.

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling

3. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

4. Stalking Tigers – Graham Clements

5. Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

6. 9.11.2001 – Stephen King

7. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes

8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

9. Fifty Shades of Grey – EL James

10. The Corrections – Jonathon Franzen.

What if the bestseller list is dominated by books from bygone eras? Couldn’t happen, you say. Surely we would be writing better stuff than that in the future, you say. Well I reckon it could happen and the web and ebooks are the reason why.

Every book that is published on the web is going to be there forever, or at least until civilisation collapses sometime later this century.  Harry Potter is going to be there forever. The Di Vinci Code is going to be on the web forever. That crappy story you just uploaded is going to be illegally copied onto some ewebumsucker’s website who is desperate for content and stay on the web forever even after you delete it from your website.

Before the web came along books went out of publication or were just not stocked by bookstores. A new book only had to compete with all the books in that bookstore. With the arrival of the web a new ebook has to compete with all the other ebooks on the web. I’ve already thought of that, you mumble. But wait, there’s more.

Every generation has its own books. They are usually books written that say something to that generation. That will probably continue to happen. The future will have many Catcher in the Ryes. But usually once a child matures into adulthood they start searching for particular books that inform and entertain themselves, that challenge their brains, or excite them. The future generations will do just about all this searching online. They won’t be limited to what is in their local bookshop or library (that probably closed down years before anyway). Get to the point! You yell.

As a reader searches they will discover authors new to them, but not new to the world, authors like Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Tom Clancy, Neil Gaiman, Patrick White, Margaret Atwood etc. These authors and their books will be as new to them as any new ebook published for the first time in 2050. 

What’s more the publishers of hugely successful book series will probably decide to relaunch the Hunger Games or Fifty Shades every 15 years or so, so a new generation can get excited/sucked in by them. After all, it will only cost the publishers the price of marketing and royalties to the estates of the authors.

So in the future a new book’s major competition might not come from other new books, but from all the classics and million sellers of yesteryear. Good luck to any new author trying to compete in that market. 

I’m sick and taking multiple drugs to get better, so I have an excuse for any typos in this week’s post, unlike all my other posts. I also have an excuse if my ramblings on the future of publishing don’t make any sense.


greenspace said...

Very true. Back-listed novels are going to become more accessible, at the same time as more & more new books are e-published. Mind-boggling, really.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Haha you wish Graham.. though very well could be! (re.4)

Love Number 1... lol.

It's a frightening thought in all seriousness. There's already a veritable ocean of crap out there. Who knows how things will be archived in decades to come. Perhaps the bestseller novelist will be a thing of the past, with every writer on earth having the same possiblity's as the next guy. Only the classics will stand out.

50 Shades of Hungry Twilight, a classic. Truly terrifying.

Maybe literature reached its peak some decades ago....