Stephen Page, publisher and chief executive of Faber and Faber, writes in an article in the Guardian that “the industry is closer now to a tipping point that would see a dramatic reduction in range, a shortening of writers’ careers, and a reading culture that errs towards mass forms of entertainment alone.” He is talking about what I have called the Hollywoodization of book publishing — the tendency to devote more and more resources to a small number of top-tier (from a sales perspective) books.
And he is beginning to see opportunities in new media to address this problem — “hope,” he says “lies in the new technology-spawned networks and print technologies that give oxygen to diversity, resulting in demand that allows online and range-holding booksellers to thrive.”
It’s nice to see the battleship of big book publishing sloooowly turning to align with the direction everyone else has been headed for some time. If only it were clearly exactly what Mr. Page is calling for. It sounds a bit like setting the publicity department loose on the internet rather than embracing new media in their essence. (Looming large on Mr. Page’s map of the future is the e-book. I will continue to regard this as a minor technological curiosity until someone shows that it’s really worth paying attention to.)
While Mr. Page’s comments are rather vague, they have nonetheless provoked a lively discussion in the comments section, which is worth checking out.