Sunday, November 11, 2012

What's Old is New Again, and Still Sparks Debate

There have been a number of articles and blogs over recent months about how self-publishers are destroying the publishing world. There have probably been almost as many responses convinced that indie authors are saving the industry. An interesting guest blog by Ed Robertson comes down on the saving side, focusing mainly on book pricing. Robertson provides some interesting stats which does appear to show that the publishing industry has shot itself in the foot by charging far more for books than one might perceive reasonable.

The other interesting aspect to his blog is that this is not the first time people have cried “publishing is dying!” Robertson notes that it also happened back in 1939 when Robert De Graff of Pocket Books began selling paperbacks for twenty-five cents. At that time, hard covers were between $2.50 and $3.00. In 2012 terms, this means a hard cover would be $40 to $50 and the mass market paperback version would be $4.16. A big difference! Pocket Books’ strategy sparked a lot of debate. Some authors weren’t interested in selling their books for twenty-five cents, while genre authors were happy that their books were selling in greater numbers than ever. Furthermore, the quality of the covers was hotly disputed. The thing was that within five years Pocket Books sold 100 million copies. Is any of this sounding familiar yet?

As Robertson points out, for a number of reasons, publishers didn’t keep the price of their books affordable and thus sales began to drop. I won’t recap the whole blog here, but suggest you give it a read. He also provides other links to more of a historical view of the publishing industry. You know, someone (if they haven’t already) ought to write a book about the publishing industry of the last 150 years. I’d buy a copy. To read his blog (he’s guesting on David Gaughran’s blog), go to

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