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Publishing industry meltdown

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I've been more or less out of touch with most of the online world lately, and some events haven't shown up in Google News, where I get most of my daily news, so it wasn't until a couple days ago that I heard about the big round of publishing industry layoffs three weeks ago.

I'm very sorry to hear about it. I'm sad to hear about editors losing their jobs, and I'm sad to hear about authors who are being hurt in various ways by the changes.

I knew that some pieces of the industry had been in trouble for a while, but I hadn't realized things were falling apart so seriously or so quickly.

There's a mostly pretty good article in the Nation, by Tom Engelhardt, titled "Reading in an Age of Depression"; it has a bunch of info about the recent layoffs and reorganizations, and some discussion of other industries that've been hard-hit by recent economic problems. It also notes that books have not been selling as much lately as had been hoped; apparently a bunch of people in the industry knew that books had sold well during the Great Depression, and therefore assumed they would continue to sell well now, even though the entertainment landscape has changed significantly. And the article has some musings about the future of the industry and the Time of the Book. I have some disagreements with the piece, but found it generally informative, albeit a bit--I dunno, maybe "smug" is the word I'm looking for? Something like that.

I've been lucky enough to be personally largely insulated from the economic crisis thus far, partly due to my ineptitude and laziness about investing. But as the ripples spread, I'm beginning to see more and more people I know hurt by it. In these dark times, I hope you're all doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

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The layoffs at the majors have been big news (and personally difficult), but the Amazon/Booksurge ultimatum early in 2008 has huge implications for the small press world and eventually for the majors as well. Forcing publishers to use a particular (and very bad) book printer, forcing publishers to split their print runs, and hurting a lot of competing book printers will both hurt the printed book and push a lot of publishers and authors towards ebooks.


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