As word’s been spreading about the tour, I get more questions about it each time I attend one of the many literary events Edmonton is fortunate to have. In the last week I attended a second LitFest noon-hour panel (featuring Marcello DiCintio and dee Hobsbawn-Smith) and the Editors’ Association of Canada PPB Board Members retreat. At both of these events I have been asked something along the lines of…
“You know publishing is dying, right?” and “Why would you want to go around to see publishing houses dying?”
Within the same week D&M announced its filing for creditor protection. Today Random House and Penguin announced a merge. Tremble.
How morbid of me to want to watch and document something as it crumbles to ash. Perhaps it’s naïve of me to wanna shout back “Publishing is not dying!”
Are presses going under? Some, yes. Is it because of e-book technology and the ability to torrent books? Maybe, though I don’t really have the authority to say definitely. But not printing books does not mean that books as a business is dead. And writers won’t just stop telling their stories because people aren’t printing books.
The industry is changing because the needs of readers are changing. Those in the industry will have to adapt if they want to survive. Isn’t that just how the world works? Or is that another young and naïve thing to think?
If publishing methods were generations of people, the printed book would be the early senior. Experimentation is a phase long gone. Having been part of the transition from press to printer, the printed book was happy with the world the way it was and has grown weary of change.
The e-book, a few years ago just a wee babe and perhaps the bastard child of Book and Digital Technology, is now entering its adolescent-stage. It’s an awkward time as it tries on new faces, attempting to mask its flaws while filtering through the stages of growing up. E-book is trying to be respectful of its elders while still holding true to itself and keeping up with the times in an effort to survive. The e-book, not always taken seriously, tries to stand tall and yet is shunned by those with their noses turned away from its dirty digital DNA.
This analogy may be a little flawed and somewhat unrelated, but I like it.
So what am I saying, though? That in thirty years e-books will be normal, print books will still exists in the way vinyl records still exist—for the market that wants them—and the publishing industry will have something different we can all choose to be or not be scared of.
The focus of the Great Canadian Publishing Tour is to showcase how publishing is changing and to examine the ways in which we can help it flourish. Not how we can save it—because it doesn’t need saving—but how we can continue to adapt to ensure that all types of readers have access to the books they want to read. Because remember: as writers, editors, and publishers, our jobs aren’t to tread water to keep each other afloat, our jobs are to provide a product and service to readers. Those who do will be just fine.