Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is the Great Recession the Tipping Point for the Book Industries?

Will we look back twenty years from now and see our current Great Recession as a tipping point for the book industries (writing books and about books, publishing, distribution (bookstores, libraries, online, etc.)?

This week we just learnt that Baker & Taylor, and their academic library book vendor subsidiary YBP, has bought Blackwell. This is a very significant move towards monopoly in the academic library book sales market. While there are still other players in the marketplace -- Ambassador, Midwest Library Services, Coutts -- YBP will dominate. But they will dominate a market that, in terms of the portion of library collection budgets spent on books, continues to shrink. Basically, it seems in this recession Blackwell could not compete in the US market.

Now today I read this story in the New York Times that Kirkus Review is closing down as well. It was always one of the major reviewing venues for librarians. As the ways in which professionals and readers alike find out about recently published books continue to change, Kirkus could survive and this recession struck the coup de grace.

There are many other examples (the rise of the Kindle and Nook, and Google Book Search come to mind) but those two will do for this week.


Bryan's workshop blog said...

Good post! I like the way this makes me rethink some stuff.

Questions, Jon:

1) I wonder... how did book sales do in the 1930s? I know Hollywood boomed during that Depression.

2) Do you see the book industry crisis as bound up with (sorry) that of newspapers?

Jonathan Miller said...

I don't know what happened to book sales in the 1930's. It wouldn't take too long to find out (at least in a well stocked print library that had a run of Bowker's Annual, at least that is where the Reference Librarian i me would start!) Why don't you find out and post here?

If memory serves, the 1930's were the beginning (at least one beginning) of the paperback; another transformative moment in publishing.

I do think the crisis in newspapers and the problems in book publishing ultimately spring from the same two sources, which in themselves are related: our move to digital and the proliferation of infotainment sources/venues. But because of the different business models of the two industries, these are have different and multiple impacts on both industries.