January 26, 2009
Time to Learn
The saying goes that once something makes Time magazine--be it pop trend, political trend, economic trend--it's over. For example, once Time reported the housing bubble a couple years back, it was probably time to get out of real estate.
Now Time has discovered that the digital age is reshaping publishing. These inveterate journalists can now tell a waiting world that self-publishing is no longer a black mark on an author, that publishers actually look at self-publishing as a kind of minor league farm system from which they can call up potential stars to the Majors.
We are glad to finally be informed by Time that "new media like video games (sales up 19% in 2008!) are now competing with books for our entertainment hours and dollars." (Hmm. Didn't know that.)
As a result of innovative, hard-nosed investigative reporting, Time can now report exclusively that publishing has an antiquated business model (advances to authors and consignment to stores) that arose from the Depression.
Time says publishers of all kinds are scaling back as a result of terrible sales--even though that has very little to do with the digital revolution and everything to do with a horrible economy.
The latest trend to not hit the United States, you will be glad to learn, is all the rage in Japan: the cell phone novel--which, of course, Wired magazine told us about a year ago.
Don't get me wrong. The piece is a helpful overview in many ways. A guy's just gotta have a little fun now and then. But even if the saying is true that a Time article signals the death of something, they're right in this instance: "Publishing isn't dying. But it is evolving." The good news in all this is that people are writing, people are reading and people are finding new ways to read and write. As long as that happens, society is better off and smart publishers will get their share.