Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Publishing Is Not About Books

Rachelle Gardner recently wrote this interesting post about the publishing industry and the music industry, and how much they (don't) have in common. It got me thinking, and what it got me thinking was this:

We've got it all wrong.

We've been talking about the future of publishing with the advent of the e-reader, and what will happen to publishing, and how self-pubbed e-books will change publishing, and and and. But here's the thing:

Publishing is not about books.

Publishing is about storytelling.

It's not about the words on the page (or the e-ink on the screen). Publishers create audiobooks, which in my mind are analogous to CDs. And more and more people are opting to listen to the audiobook instead of reading the words on the page - and hey, since you can do that AND clean your house at the same time, you can hardly argue.

And let's not forget about film rights: more and more books are optioned for film these days. Going to the movies is, for many, many, many people, an alternative to reading a book. For one thing, it's a hell of a lot quicker. And I think that in our time-pressured society, in which people are trying to cram more and more into our already-packed schedules (full-time job, family, pet, home repairs, and writing on the side, anyone?), the number of people investing in audiobooks and opting to skip the book in favor of the movie is only going to go up.

Books? I love them. I am a true bibliophile. I want a 3,600-sq-ft library like Jay Walker's. But mark my words: they're going to go the way of sheet music and movie scripts.

Publishing? It will survive. But not as we know it.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? 


  1. I agree with a point. Publishing SHOULD be about storytelling, but it is a business which means it is about making a profit however the industry can.

    I write because I love to tell a story. I think we writers have to focus on why we write, and what we love about it. That will get us through the uncertainty in the industry.

    Thank you for this post!

  2. I agree. I love books but recognize the world of books will change. And I do love audio books. I listen while I walk for exercise and do gardening, etc. It's a way to read more.

  3. Brooke, I agree that publishing is a business. And because it is a business, it isn't as print book-oriented as we tend to make it when we talk and think about it. We focus on the print books because that's what we most often see and that's what we associate with "being published," but I believe that sector will continue to shrink while other areas grow. And yes, I agree that writers need to focus on why we write. Very well put!

    Natalie, my husband is a great fan of audiobooks - much more than I. I'm so visual, I need to see the words in order to really take them in. But to each their own - and yes, audiobooks allow us to "multitask." And they allow several people to enjoy a book at the same time, which is nice.