Publishing in crisis. Who is responsible, who takes the lead?

#SharingStories  · 

Publishing in crisis. Who is responsible, who takes the lead?

Today we are launching a new weekly section in our blog called #SharingStories. This name reflects both de DNA of boolino (impacting children’s lives by turning them into enthusiastic readers) as well as the content of this new section. Every Saturday I will talk about news and issues related to the children’s publishing sector that have caught my attention, about news and tendencies in children education as well as things that are happing in and around boolino. 

Through #SharingStories I want to initiate debates and maybe provoke every now and then to push us (everyone who works in this fantastic industry) beyond our comfort zone. Everything you will read here is my personal opinion, which might not always coincide with the thinking of the boolino team… writing in first person gives me that freedom. Please contradict me, in case you don’t agree with what I am saying. I don’t pretend to be right and the more we debate and share, the more value this blog will create. The reason why boolino exists is that we love books and reading. We firmly believe that a culture of sharing stories and reading creates a better and more equal society.

Publishing in crisisThese days, triggered by the presentation of the 2013 results of the Spanish publishing market by the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España (include link to their press release) (FGEE) last Monday, the press has been full of articles painting a rather dark future picture of our industry: Saltan las alarmas en el sector editorial español al retrodecer 20 años, Las ventas de libros cayeron casi un 10% en 2013, El libro infantil y juvenil sigue su caída en ventas. Without doubt, Spain is living through a severe economic crisis in combination with decreasing household income due to high unemployment. As a result, publishing experienced an important downturn in sales, like a lot of other sectors, for example the Spanish gaming industry is down 48% from its peak in 2007. On top of this, like all other media industries, book publishing finds itself in the middle of a perfect storm due to shifting distribution channels from physical (book stores) to online in combination with the digitalization of the content. Short-term effects are lower sales and reduced profitability but the real issue is that the old publishing business model will not work in the digital age. 

While reading all these articles I was asking myself how our future might look like (assuming that there will be books in the future). And suddenly, I had a bad feeling in my stomach. Are we (the publishing sector as a whole) confronting the underlying challenges? Or are we rather just starring with wide-open eyes at this hurricane that is approaching us, blaming others instead of acting proactively? After 13 years working in the book industry and listening to the arguments of publishers and booksellers, I have the feeling that we are seeing ourselves more as victims than as acting leaders willing to address the reality and our challenges. One could get the idea that the reasons of the current crisis are only the result of external factors (the government does not foster reading and does not protect sufficiently intellectual property, families get less subsidies to buy text books than some years ago, public libraries buy less books, book prices went down, piracy of digital editions in combination with a higher VAT than of paper books limit the growth of ebooks… and we could go on). 

I do not want to suggest that all these arguments do not have a certain truth in it but making only third parties responsible for our problems is not helpful to envision our future in a changing world. 

What are we really doing to foster reading in our society? Are we getting out the message to parents that reading will impact the life of their children significantly? Every month bookstores are closing, are we sufficiently creative to find new ways to promote our books? For example using online communication channels, social networks or cross media strategies? Are we ready to profoundly challenge our assumption that it makes sense to publish every year more than 75.000 books? Are we publishing the books people want to read? (Despite a shrinking market certain niches like romantic novels and humor books are growing… maybe more humor is needed to bring us through these times.)

People might have less money to spend than a couple of years ago but most families have modern HD flat screens TV sets at home and many kids have the latest smartphone in their pocket. Maybe we are just not getting our message out to the market in the right way: Reading is the basis of education and a happy life.

Just a thought…

Yours,

Sven

Find me on twitter: @boolino, @svenhuber, #SharingStories 

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Keywords in this post: publishing in crisis, sales, spain

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