I read an article in The Stranger about how, essentially, books as we know them are dead. That's sad, I rather like books. The crux of the argument being: publishing houses have poor business models that give them meager profits if any. Couple that with the travesty that was the 2008 American Economy, and you're looking at particularly hard times.
These hard times aren't just crippling books. You've got newspapers and the music industry on their death beds as well. The lesson for the latter two being: Most People Won't Pay For Something They Can Get For Free.
Of course, people like to say that, "If you priced things appropriately, people will pay a reasonable price for music." Those are who we like to call Suckers. I don't see any way out for the music industry until they can once-and-for-all put the clamp down on every single downloader of illegal booty. Random lawsuits won't scare away the majority of intelligent downloaders. Just their parents.
As for newspapers, here's a wild idea: stop giving away the entire paper for free! You don't see magazines doing that!
Newspapers, traditionally, have gotten their revenue through ads. For some reason, it's been written that Internet ads are hella cheap. Ergo, Newspapers can't make their money from Internet ads. Solution: charge people for online subscriptions.
Is that so hard? Really? If every newspaper did this, you're telling me nobody would buy? One of two things would happen: Newspapers would thrive as online-only with the same sized staffs they have now; or Newspapers would officially die and blogging would rule the Earth. But, as it stands, they'll never make it if they don't do something. As more and more old people die, they're being replaced by tech-savvy citizens more than willing to renounce newsprint in favor of their computers and whatnot. If they want to avoid the slow dirge to destruction, they'll start charging monthly Internet subscriptions and they'll start soon.
As for books, I always kind of equated them to the Film Industry. In this era where CDs are losing more money than they gain, and major newspapers are folding, movies have never been more profitable. Every year, new attendance records are broken; while it may not be recession-proof, the film industry is indeed recession-resistant.
And sure there's piracy, but most ordinary people would rather see the movie they want to see in front of a giant screen with surround sound and all the rest, as opposed to a videotaped version a bootlegger makes over in Japan with poor sound quality and even worse visual quality. Sure, DVDs are probably taking hits, especially the more people get comfortable with the concept of burning DVDs to play in DVD players, but for the most part, it takes forever to download a movie and most ordinary people won't make the effort.
It really is a lot of work compared to plopping down 15-20 bucks to buy the DVD with all the extras and the like. Besides, if you really want to have a cool video library to go with your flat screen TV and all the rest, you want to be able to show off that library the way people used to show off their book libraries.
But, I guess people aren't buying books as much anymore. Indeed, they never really bought that many books to begin with, compared to the grand scheme. With the advent of Kindle and products like that, you can get cheap books and download them into your little machine for a fraction of the cost and a microscopic percentage of the bulk.
One point that article made that I thought was a good one is that, as the bigger publishing houses start closing down, big-time authors like your Tom Clancys and Stephen Kings will price out those who remain. If you got rid of all the big-time publishers and left the small, independent ones that true literary nuts admire, you're not going to convert all those people who used to read Tom Clancy and Stephen King. Those people will simply stop reading altogether. Remaining readers will be a quaint few, akin to people who collect LPs.
I found that idea quite intriguing, because the first books I read for enjoyment - upon nearing puberty and no longer reading Judy Blume - were Stephen King books. From there, I eventually branched out to the classics, but there was a solid, 6-10 year period there (I'd say I started reading Stephen King books when I was 8 or so, I guess I was an early bloomer) where it was all Stephen King all the time. If my mom and aunt had never read Stephen King books because he wasn't around because there were no big-time publishers raking in the millions off of his efforts, I never would've taken the initiative to borrow all those books from my mom and aunt, and I may have never been the avid reader you see before you.
This alternate universe absolutely terrifies the bejesus out of me. Generations from now, if things go the way they're going, could be deprived of the privilege of sitting down and reading a real life book. In their hands. With the pages and the spines and the faded covers.
Remember when there was no Internet, and only the wealthy had car-phones (forget cellular phones), and you had to wait until the next day to read the news, and you had to buy music on cassette because CD players were like 800 bucks, and recording movies onto video tape from Blockbuster Video was all the rage because it cost way too much to buy the actual tapes, and the only thing electrical about cars were the lights and stereos, and there was only, like 50 cable channels, and sometimes televisions only went up to channel 36, and George Foreman was a boxer, and Ozzy Osbourne sang rock songs, and MTV played music videos, and Nickelodeon had shows that weren't asinine, and for the love of Christ television had scripted shows that weren't 1/3 commercial interruptions!