Where is Publishing Headed?

It seems improbable that the future of books can be explained in seven steps. However, John B. Johnson and The Huffington Post might disagree. Johnson has studied the publishing industry closely for ten years and claims that the challenges faced by the publishing industry today are nothing short of the “greatest challenges since Gutenberg.” Johnson continues to detail seven trends in the book publishing industry that he believes to be truth. I will not go into the details of each speculative trend but the just is as follows; large retailers like Amazon will continue to thrive while retailers like Barnes and Noble will shrink; the transition of print to digital will continue, although the rate of transition is dependent on the type of book, genre, and author; large publishing houses will witness declining revenues and this will in turn open up the market and allow for small publishing operations and start-ups to proliferate. None of the predictions seem to outlandish and, in fact, many of the speculations are already well under way. Border’s, a competitor of Barnes’ and Noble filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Today e-books comprise 20% of the book market and in niche markets like romance and science fiction nearly 60%. Johnson admits that beyond the short-term trends the picture far less clear. Johnson predicts that the future market for books will result in a mixed economy of both print and digital.

While most of the current literature on the health and future standing of the publishing industry is appropriately pessimistic, there remain positives. Take for example The Future of the Book, “a design exploration of digital reading that seeks to identify new opportunities for readers, publishers, and authors to discover, consume, and connect in different formats.” The transition to a digital world allows for new technology that generations of readers can utilize. Enter Nelson. Nelson presents readers with varying opinions and perspectives of the text that they are engaged with, allowing them to see the bigger picture. Nelson allows you to discover different publications based on the impact they have had on your topic of interest. This is just one tool out of countless technological advances that readers can take advantage of in a digital world.

Despite the dreary outlook and current standing of the publishing industry, there are reasons for hope. New technology can bring youth to literature that has existed for centuries.


“Why Are The Economist’s Writers Anonymous?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.


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