Are Books Part of the Past?

Andrew AlbaneseAre books part of the past? Or are they essential to the future? No, we’re not talking about the shopworn debate over the death of print. In this clash for hearts and minds and money, books will likely survive — but what future lies ahead for books authors?

Even as the industry sees reason for hope in recent sales figures, a leading author bemoans his profession’s condition and warns of dire consequences.

“In the Adult trade book category, sales rose 5.6%, over the year, paced by a healthy 33% increase in e-book sales. E-Book sales, by the way, now stand at around $1.25 billion,” Andrew Albanese, senior writer at Publishers Weekly, tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Hardcover sales continue to drop, though, off 6.7% of the year, and mass-market paperback sales dropped 12.4%. In the e-book age we’re seeing more unit sales, but less revenue, and, notably from the previous reports from the major houses, greater profits.”

Albanese also comments on last weekend’s New York Times op-ed from Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. Copyright protections, the bestselling novelist asserts, makes possible a “diverse literary culture [that]… is essential to democracy. That culture is now at risk.” In Turow’s view, those protections have withered from attacks in courts and online.

“If you haven’t read Turow’s piece, I would urge you to because we all should be thinking about how writers will be compensated going forward,” Albanese notes. “But are we seeing the slow death of the American author? Hardly the case.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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