For me, it’s always a kind of relief to write a piece for Writer Unboxed. That’s because you, Unboxed one, are among the most consistent elements of publishing.
Writers tend to work through the upheavals of the industry by focusing ever more intently on writing. This actually is not the pathway taken by many others in the industry.
As economic and market forces bash and bang up the business, company people (rightly) believe they have a mandate not only to adapt but to innovate, to look for things that will accommodate and/or ameliorate the changing circumstances of a creative industry in profoundly changing times. The industry! The industry!
And so my reporting at Publishing Perspectives and at The Hot Sheet have a lot to do with change: lots of trial and lots more error, fits and startups, big trends that fizzle in under two years, minor fads that flatten everybody’s expectations, and the abiding difficulty that this industry has in understanding itself as part of a major entertainment complex that has overtaken it.
On that last point, it’s not everyone. I love the exceptions: some of publishing’s brightest leaders are working well to associate themselves with studios and other production players to reposition bookish content for survival in a screened landscape.
But another thing I value in the Writer Unboxed community is the authorial viewpoint that, of course, isn’t always factored into industry thinking.
And today, I’d like to “provoke you,” to use a pleasantly over-strong term, to give me your input on an important distinction that I fear some in the business may be overlooking, and that I’ll bet many in the author corps are not.
Let’s say that there’s a difference in the content and the act: the story and the reception of it.
Heres what I’m on about. As you know, publishing’s shooting star at the moment is audiobooks. Oh, those double-digit gains. The Association of American Publishers just reported that between January and August of this year, downloaded audio was up 37.5 percent over the same period last year, by far the biggest gain in all publishing. And this is being replicated in other world markets we cover.
Audio is hot, hot, hot. (As long as it’s downloaded. Physical audio in the same time-period comparison tanked by 24.6 percent. We don’t need no stinkin’ CDs or cassette tapes, thanks just the same.)
So big is audio that at The FutureBook conference in London in November, my former associates at The Bookseller will be staging a full day of audiobook sessions–there’s an entire audio conference running parallel to the main stream. (And we could have bought stock in headphone makers, you know.)
As I’m sure I’ve bored you by saying before here, my own pet pleasure in this thing about audio is that in some markets like the UK (but not yet in Canada, we just learned), guys are leading the way in audiobook sales. Yes, guys. Outbuying the women in books. Sounds like another planet, doesn’t it? But it’s true. As long as it’s audio, the guys are in the lead. They don’t like reading, but they like listening, especially while doing other things, surveys show.
But that brings me to my provocation for you today.