Danny Kemp.

Are Books Doomed to Extinction?

Unless something changes, books as we know them are doomed, and not simply because people prefer to read on their iPad or Kindles. You’ll see the major publishing houses starting to go away in three to five years. Their business model is in free fall. Already, we’re seeing books becoming shorter, cheaper, free in lots of cases, and diminishing in quality. You’ll soon see fewer really good authors bothering to write books, because books are no longer a meaningful source of revenue.  Some reasons WHY! Attention spans are diminishing. three-quarters of teachers said their students’ attention spans are shorter than ever, according to a poll released in June. By 11 years old, nearly half of the kids had stopped reading for pleasure. The poll, by publisher Pearson UK, is just the most recent survey/study documenting shrinking attention spans and a corresponding drift from books.   Major publishers are producing lower-quality books. The big publishing houses today are more interested in a quality marketing plan than in the quality of the book, so we’re being deluged by low-quality books. One reason is that many large publishers have stopped taking on the expense of marketing books, but they know it’s necessary for sales. So they take on authors with a marketing plan and budget. They’re also less interested in “star” authors, who demand higher royalties. They also lost authors when they eliminated advances in response to the 2008 recession.  Books are moving to devices, where content is free and time is thin-sliced. Online, you don’t expect to pay for content. People will expect books available online to be either free or very inexpensive, and if those books turn out to be one chapter of ideas and eleven chapters of Hamburger Helper, they will be less willing to pay for them. Also, people don’t spend much time going into depth online; books are supremely inappropriate for the surface-skimming nature of the Internet. Once people have bought a bunch of ebooks they’ve never started, they’ll stop buying them altogether.  Authors have a more difficult time earning a livable wage. Fewer authors can earn enough to make writing a full-time job. The audience is shrinking and fewer people are willing to pay $15 for a paper book when cheap alternatives are available.   People need to read, and they need to read to their children or buy them books. If people stop demanding good books, there eventually will be none available!



About Danny Kemp

I was at work one sunny November day in 2006, stopped at a red traffic light when a van, driven incompetently, smashed into me. I was taken to St Thomas' Hospital and kept in for a while, but it was not only the physical injuries that I suffered from; it was also mental ones. I had lost confidence in myself let alone those around me. The experts said that I had post-traumatic stress disorder, which I thought only the military or emergency personnel suffered from. On good days, I attempted to go to work, sometimes I even made it through Blackwell Tunnel only to hear, or see, something that made me jump out of my skin and that's when the anxiety attacks would start. I told my wife that I was okay and going regularly, but I wasn't. I could not cope with life and thought about ending it. Somehow or other with the help of my wife and medical professionals, I managed to survive and ever so slowly rebuild my self-esteem. It took almost four years to fully recover, but it was during those dark depressive days that I began to write. My very first story, Look Both Ways, Then Look Behind, found a literary agent but not a publisher. He told me that I had a talent, raw, but nevertheless, it was there. His advice was to write another story and that I'm delighted to say, I did. The success of that debut novel, The Desolate Garden, was down to sheer hard work, luck, and of course, meeting a film producer.
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3 Responses to Danny Kemp.

  1. I don’t think books are doomed,nor quality. I think that cream will continue to rise to the top and that children will benefit from the ‘nostalgia’ of a paper book being read by their parent (s) for a while yet. We of this generation have a hard time envisioning a child tucked into bed with a reading device but it is the present. Perhaps a cozy cover would help 🙂
    Making a living from writing books has become a bit of a dice game. It is hit and miss for the most part but it will level itself out at some point and if it is digital readers that work, well at least people will still be reading, learning, sharing.
    The rate at which I read one book does not warrant spending 15$ plus so although I don’t yet have a kindle or another device I do understand the reluctance.

  2. alanplace says:

    I agree that books are not doomed, many of my friends still prefer hard copies. Your comment on sales brings a question up. What about all the people especially unknown writers who claim to be NY Times best sellers? If book are not selling how can that be. As a writer I have often pondered the question if books at $10+ are selling, how come ebooks at a tenth the cost are not selling? As yet, nobody can give me a good answer.

    • Danny Kemp says:

      I have to ask are they ‘best sellers,’ or are they one of thousands who currently give their work away free thereby becoming highly ranked in their particular genre and so can then claim to be a best-seller? It is a publicity practise, in many cases.

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