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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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing”
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People Are Reading More Books During Quarantine

Credit: Getty Images

In a (not so) surprising turn of good news, it seems the publishing industry is doing pretty well during the extended duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publishers Doing Well, Retailers OK.

While retailers like the ever-embattled Barnes&Noble took an initial hit, publishers have quietly been able to continue churning out books mostly on schedule due to the nature of their business. This piece over at Observer details how sales of books have been going up as more people turn to books for entertainment and information while being at home.

This makes logical sense to me. I’ve been reading far more in the past couple of months, even if my writing output has suffered from quarantine. I have noticed that I’ve been skewing heavily toward non-fiction books though. I’ve struggled with getting into fiction, which is extremely abnormal for me. It’s not surprising to me with all the major events happening globally in 2020 that people are seeking out information in books, and creating a rise in non-fiction sales.

Luckily for us, many retail booksellers are now open again in some capacity. That combined with availability of online sales is something we can at least be grateful for in these challenging times.

Have you been reading more during the pandemic? If so, what have you been getting into? Let me know down in the comments.

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How The Book Business is Coping with Coronavirus

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Credit: Publisher’s Weekly

Coronavirus is upending nearly every industry on Earth.

The book industry isn’t immune. It’s been crazy to see such a sudden shift in consumer behavior (mandated or self-imposed) over just the past few weeks here in the USA and through news reports around the world. I’m very thankful for my Kindle, and I made sure to grab a new book from my local indie bookstore before it was forced to shut down this week.

Jim Millot over at Publisher’s Weekly wrote this fascinating article on how the publishing industry, which isĀ notoriously slow to change and adapt, has been forced to adjust. Especially around live events and their love/hate relationship with Amazon who is (rightfully) focusing on inventory of basic necessity items for customers.

There is also a major toll on brick & mortar book sellers, especially the 800 lb. gorilla Barnes&Noble who were already teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

I’m not sure what will happen with this situation, but it has made one thing very apparent to me.

Books are one of the single most well-engineered pieces of information and entertainment. No wifi, electricity, or connectivity needed. It’s no wonder they are still going strong after centuries.

 

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Hachette employees stage walk-out over Woody Allen Memoir

Credit: NPR.org

Hachette Book Group employees working for Grand Central Publishing and Little,Brown staged a walk-out on Thursday afternoon after discovering that their parent company was publishing Woody Allen’s memoir Apropos of Nothing.

The controversial memoir was passed over by numerous major publishers, and Hachette group accepted and published it quietly while also publishing Catch and Kill, a book by journalist Ronan Farrow that included allegations of abuse by Allen. Farrow is the son of Allen’s ex-wife, actress Mia Farrow.

This is certainly bad form on a publisher, and doubly so not giving any notification to Farrow or the Catch and Kill team given the sensitive subject matter they were working on. The HBG group employees are walking out in solidarity with Farrow and the book’s team.

What are your thoughts on publishers making money off of controversial memoirs? This isn’t the first time a big publisher has caused a stir by publishing non-fiction centering on a celebrity with a less-than-stellar reputation.

UPDATE: HBG has officially stated they will not be publishing Woody Allen’s memoir.

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Barnes & Noble To Be Like Indie Bookstores

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Credit: Bloomberg.com

I’ve written previously about the painfully slow demise of Barnes & Noble, and their continued attempts at transformation. It seems pretty obvious, at least when I step into my local stores, that they need to down-size and stop selling toys & games. A book store should focus on selling books. Or is that insanity?

Their new CEO and cut-throat hedge fund owners seem to think this is the right move as well, and in a new article over at Bloomberg it appears that B&N will be turning another corner and trying to mimic independent bookstores. The same type of stores they spent many years putting out of business. Oh, the irony…

I’m torn over this.

I dislike Barnes & Noble, but I dislike Amazon more, for a variety of reasons. That, and at some point B&N stopped instructing their employees to aggressively engage customers about add-ons during every purchase. This was also a good move, because while I’ll never begrudge someone for doing their job, it was just obnoxious trying to buy a $5 paperback and getting the “hard sell” at the register.

I can only imagine my local Barnes and Noble will relocate from the massive shopping mall it currently inhabits, in an attempt to reduce square footage. This would be a good thing as well. I’d prefer to see a more intimate store with some character, and more importantly the flexibility to shelve interesting titles. An emphasis on customer service would be nice too.

Oh and please, PLEASE just finally kill off the Nook. Please. It’s getting sad at this point.