Friday, July 15, 2011

Disaster Looming for Publishers??


Between the debt ceiling debate, rising unemployment, and the liquidation of another large book retailer, I'm just not sure where we're all headed in this publishing industry.

It's not like Borders even carried our books (their loss), but Borders was a bookseller, nonetheless. A bookseller with lots and lots of stores. It appears now as though we are down to two mega-book sellers: Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Granted, there are some independent stores still hanging on, and some do pretty well, like Powell's in Portland, OR. At least they were doing well when last I checked. But overall we're getting down to fewer and fewer booksellers and more and more published books. The supply of books is far greater than the demand for them. I think I learned about this in school long ago. So, if the supply is greater than the demand, then some publishers are going to have to seriously cut back on their production, or fold altogether.

Personally, I see the big houses in a world of hurt. For several years they've largely published books NO ONE WANTS TO READ. That leaves a lot of small houses, like Moonlight Mesa Associates, university presses, vanity and subsidy presses, and self-publishers cranking out books.

People rarely buy vanity/subsidy press books or self-published books. Obviously, some titles sell; most don't. That leaves the rest of us little guys.

The playing field in the publishing industry got leveled a while back with the advent of ebooks. Enter Kindle and Nook. ANYONE can publish an ebook. Until B&N figured it out, Kindle had the field to itself. Again, the supply of ebooks greatly exceeds the demand in the ebook world also.

Throw into this mixture the growing unemployment rate, the supposed calamity of the debt ceiling issues, and cities cutting back on expenses (like public libraries). I think it spells a tough time coming up for the publishing industry.

Of course, a tiny percentage of the population has more money than it knows what to do with. You know, the ones who have corporate jets and mansions, etc. I wonder, do they buy books? Do they have time to read or are they too busy working to make more money? Do they read Westerns? I hope so!

A huge segment of the population doesn't buy books, or read at all for that matter.

So, a modest portion of the reading population now has to weigh carefully every dollar it spends, and buying books is a bit of a luxury. A tiny luxury, but a luxury nonetheless.

Are we at Moonlight Mesa going out of business? Heck no. But we now operate with a staff of two. Of course, Renee left earlier this year to finish school, and Jered is wrapped up in school, also. But we're not replacing them for the foreseeable future.

We have cut our calendar to two books (down from five) for 2012, however, and we are upping the number of events we attend to generate any losses we may feel through flagging sales by our vendors. We know it's bad when vendors aren't paying us. (In fact, I have a juicy morsel about one nonpaying vendor in the mid-West, but I'll save it for later.)

So far this year our sales have been good. We have some very popular titles. Last year was stellar, but it's too soon to tell if this will be a stellar year or not. It started off with a bang, but it has slowed, although it is summer, and summer is not known for great book business. We'll see what happens when fall rolls around.

Meanwhile, anyone out there got any predictions? Oh, and don't miss our sizzling summer sale on our website! www.moonlightmesaassociates.com

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