I recently read an article titled “The Death of Traditional Publishing.” The ominous title brings to mind the image of the gravestone, titled, perhaps, “RIP Random House. Your books are much-loved.”
Such an image would be incorrect, however. As the article explained, while traditional publishing may be dying, indie (independent) publishing is not. Instead, while overall book sales from the most powerful publishers are in decline, independently published books (both indie companies and self-published) are thriving, with sales rising in both ebooks and physical books. Independent booksellers are also doing better than big chain companies, too; Borders died years ago, and Barnes and Noble is also struggling to survive while small indie bookstores are thriving.
I’m not sad about the difficulties large publishers and bookstores are having. Traditional publishing helps very few authors and makes it hard for them to earn much money–many authors get royalties of only 10-20%. Furthermore, most of the money used to promote books goes towards the promotion of only a few big-name authors, making it hard for new authors to get any traction through a big publishing house. A similar issue can be found in big bookstores; they carry few books by budding authors because they sell names as much as anything else.
Thus the appeal of indie publishing–be it through a small publishing house or self-publishing–is that it gives new authors a chance to actually support themselves by writing. Indie bookstores, too, tend to be more community-oriented. They feel more friendly, and I’ll take the book recommendation of a friend much more seriously than I would The New York Times.
In the end, I’m not worried about the “death” of big publishing companies and bookstores. This trend doesn’t mean the end of books; it means the demolition of monopoly. It means hope for the underdog. It means modernization. It means that, if anything, books will be able to thrive more than ever. And I am here for that.