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COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many aspects of life, but as a reader I’ve actually felt fairly little impact.

I still read eBooks on my Kindle, and was able to order physical books online. Now that local retailers and my library are operating (somewhat) normally again, I can go buy them in person again too.

So, what’s changed? I think the lasting impact that COVID-19 will have on books and readers is a bit more subtle than how we actually purchase things to read.

Publisher’s Going Online

Like so many industries, publishing had to adapt to its employees working from home. I believe the pandemic may have been the catalyst to finally get the monolithic, and notoriously slow, publishing industry to start moving more quickly. The realization that many jobs can be performed remotely, and that customers can be interacted with directly out of necessity is a sea change. Whenever we collectively decide the pandemic is “over”, I think we’ll see these publishing industry changes as permanent, like we will in other large creative industries. I don’t think there’s any going back from the industry making a change to be somewhat leaner and more agile.

Amazon Will Increase It’s Dominance

At this point, it just feels inevitable. Amazon has been increasing reach and revenue, capitalizing on COVID-19 as an opportunity. As terrible as it sounds, I believe it to be true. Sales of ebooks and physical books are up as people look for something to pass the time during quarantine, as well as get perspectives on the various critical events that are taking place in the world right now. I’ll just end this section by saying it’s more important than ever to support indie bookstores and small publishers. Buy directly from small businesses, or even direct from authors, whenever you can.

More Authors Will Self-Publish

For a while there, I felt like self-publishing had either leveled out or actually started to diminish. We’re certainly past the boom-times, but now it appears more authors will be self-publishing due to presses being increasingly risk averse, and with other creatives (freelance editors, illustrators, etc.) falling on dire straits and looking for work, they will likely reduce the price of services which will make the up-front investment of self-publishing less of a hurdle. The fact that in-person events are nearly non-existent for the foreseeable future also benefits indie authors who can get creative with their marketing and audience relationships.

Book Diversity Will Increase

This is one I’m hopeful for. More diverse books, more diverse authors, more diverse readership. I hope the push to online will create greater access, along with the aforementioned “pay walls” coming down a bit. To clarify, I don’t see this for the Big 5. They’re going to circle the wagons for profit, no matter what they say publicly. However, I am optimistic that small-to-medium presses will take up the challenge to provide new and interesting voices and subjects, while the larger publishers and outlets play it safe to weather any long-term economic fallout from the pandemic.

Reading Will Be Cool Again

We’re already seeing this happen. I sincerely hope that the lack of, or slow down in other competing forms of media like television, video games, and movies will turn more people towards reading books as entertainment. In the parts of the internet I lurk on, I’ve already seen upticks in population. There are also hard numbers showing more people are reading during the pandemic. No matter what form it takes, I really don’t see a downside to that.

Those are my thoughts and long-term predictions on the changes we’ll see for publishing throughout the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you agree? Do you have any thoughts or predictions of your own? Let me know down in the comments and I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

2 thoughts on “COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing”

  1. For those of us querying agents, you raise some very good questions. I would imagine there are a lot of agents who are going to be extra choosy now when it comes to taking on debut authors–but then that’s always the case. I also think the publishing world will realize it doesn’t all have to center on NYC anymore. I mean, no one’s meeting over fancy lunches on the Upper West Side now. We’re all working from home, all over the world–as are agents and editors. In so many ways I think you’re right that publishing will become leaner in the coming years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The NYC centralization will dissipate I’m sure. Over the past few years it’s not uncommon to see small and medium press spread all over the globe leveraging the magic of the Internet. I’m sure a lot of agents will be risk averse, but there will be others (I hope) that will be willing to roll the dice on high quality original ideas from new voices.

      Liked by 1 person

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