Good post by Richard Nash on the future of publishing, most of which I agree with. I don’t agree at all, however, with one of the predictions:
3. Most predictions for 2020 based on models derived from controlling the supply side, that is, from the monopoly on the means of producing and distributing books, will be wrong. By which I mean, the supply chain book publishing and retail model is ending. The book retail chains will disappear, just like Circuit City, Sharper Image, Tower Records disappeared. And the corporate publishers will likely all but disappear just as Atari, Digital, Wang disappeared though the backlists will be spun off to private equity companies looking for semi-predictable IP-based cash flow, and a couple of front list publishing enterprises will likely be operating trying to emulate the Hollywood blockbuster model with just about enough success to be able to stay in business.
It seems certainly possible that Borders will not make it, but the idea that there will be literally no retail book chains is preposterous. Circuit City went out of business because they fired their best employees and destroyed whatever appeal they had as a place to get electronics; Tower Records went under because you can’t just sell CDs. But Best Buy is doing just fine, thankyewverymuch, because they have been flexible and now do all of what both Circuit City and Tower did, but better, and more.
Barnes & Noble is employing a not-dissimilar strategy: they knew from early on that an online presence is key, and while they’re not Amazon they’re well-established online. Similarly, they know that they’ve got to have an entrant in eReader space, so even if Nook doesn’t cut it, something will. B&N has also been pretty smart about store location; some of their mall and exurb locations may shut down but they’ve got a strong college store presence and lots of very attractive downtown city real estate. There was a time when I wished the chains nothing but ill, but I can’t fault B&N on how they’ve played the last several years, and I don’t see them going away.
More on all that later, but I also think this is spot-on from Nash:
8. In 2020 the disaffected twentysomethings of the burgeoning middle classes of India, China, Brazil, Indonesia will be producing novels faster than any of us can possibly imagine.