Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saw This Movie Before and Didn't Like It

 Yesterday, my Google Alerts feed for "publisher" and "publishing" was saturated  with content about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Filing for Bankruptcy. An article in The Huffington Post: Books goes into a bit more detail.

They make it all sound so harmless.
"Houghton Mifflin said its restructuring has support from the vast majority of its stakeholders, and that it expects to emerge from Chapter 11 by June 30. Fitch said 90 percent of the company's senior lenders support the plan." (The Huffington Post)
"Houghton Mifflin said Monday that its plan is supported by the vast majority of its stakeholders and will help strengthen its financial position so it is better positioned for the future." (The Washington Post)
This sounds nice and all but am I the only one having Borders flashbacks? They can't exactly say the ship is sinking and everyone's going to die but, from the comments I've read, that's how a lot of people are interpreting it. HMH may not be a part of the Big Six but they're still a pretty major publishing company. I grew up with their books. This is more than a little unnerving.

But, the post Are the Big 6 Really Dying: The Return of the Big Six lifted my spirits. The author said:
  Big ships take time to turn around.
I like that. Though the post was written about two months before this news, it still puts a positive spin of the future of the publishing industry. The Big Six are not going to die and Amazon is not the devil. If you go the traditional publishing route, fine. You go the self-publishing route, that's fine too. One is not easier or better than the other. Both require an egregious amount of work.

I'm thinking Houghton Mifflin filing for bankruptcy is simply more evidence the printed book is losing popularity. I know someone who bought a Kindle and now greatly prefers it over reading printed material. I plan on getting a Kindle one day and will probably go down that path. These can't possibly be isolated incidents.

But, there's no way we're going all digital any time soon. Yes, print sales are down and digital is up but, as a Library and Information Science graduate, I know the amount of work and money it takes for a library to digitize their entire collection. Most don't plan on doing this unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Even if they were given truckloads of funds, which is unlikely since libraries are losing money, it would still require a lot of time and manpower.

Though many businesses are going digital, they still have a massive back-log of print materials. They simply don't have the resources to digitize them all. I mean we have hundreds of years worth of printed books. They aren't going anywhere- unless someone invents a machine that can digitize books without people as well as automatically provide the content with the correct metadata so, you know, we can find them.

People can make all sorts of predictions about the future of the publishing industry and the printed book but they're still just very educated guesses. The only hard-fact is the industry is being reshaped inside and out. For me, as writer, it's kind of exciting!