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Comment from the book world in January 2011

January 2011

'Publishers are relevant'

31 January 2011

'Publishers are relevant. We have practical expertise and, of course, money. We give our authors advances which enable them to concentrate on their work in hand... My idea of hell is a website with 80,000 self-published works on it - some of which might be jewels, but, frankly, who's got the time? What people want is selection and frankly that's what we do.

Our industry is going through the most profound revolution since Gutenberg. It affects everything we do. There is a fight for survival for long-form reading which I'm really up for but there are certain categories of books that will change.

Gail Rebuck, CEO of Random House UKPenguin Random House have more than 50 creative and autonomous imprints, publishing the very best books for all audiences, covering fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s books, autobiographies and much more. Click for Random House UK Publishers References listing, in the Guardian

'An explosion in ways you can read'

24 January 2011

'The second decade of the century is already likely to be characterised by an explosion in ways you can read, and therefore perhaps in approaches to writing. It will also see new dynamics in how readers find what they want to read and how writers engage with their readership. The real story is that writing and reading are rich parts of our culture getting richer, and that is genuinely exciting. One aspect of this may be the light that we can shine on niche interests and tastes as e-books and the conversation online cut the costs of distributing through the mass market and allows a wider range of writing to find readers. This could benefit areas, among others, such as literary fiction, poetry and translated work.

I'm also highly optimistic about the role smaller, independent publishers can play in finding readers for writers, and for creating value in their work. The real value publishers offer is in a specialised ability to help authors to create the best work they can, to know and discover audiences for that work - and that no longer only means placing it front of store in a bookshop. And they know how to create fair value for the work in many different ways - including physical and digital books, but also all manner of other formats and channels. Small companies and imprints can do this with great focus. All this began in earnest in 2010, and will accelerate in 2011 and beyond. '

Stephen Page, Chief Executive, Faber & Faber, in the Independent

'Four or five books to establish you'

17 January 2011

'I entertain. I spend my day putting doors into alleyways. In every single book, you'll find Sharpe trapped in a blind alley with no way out. His sword is broken, his gun is out of ammunition, and he's faced with 20 malevolent Frogs who want to kill him. At that point, when the game seems up, a doorway appears magically beside him and he steps through it to safety. Now, your readers won't accept that, so you have to go back 10 chapters and establish the door in the future alleyway without the reader noticing. This is always a huge amount of work...

I was lucky. Susan Watt (his editor) said: "It will take four or five books to establish you." HarperCollins sat out those first books and the fifth Sharpe took off. I really don't know if publishers would have the patience to do that in the current climate.'

Bernard Cornwall, author of The Fort and many other novels, in the Observer

Ebooks - an author's point of view

10 January 2011

'Through all this "wither the industry" debates, I feel I'm looking on from the outside. It's frustrating not to understand the implications and, truthfully, I realise I resent having to think about it all. Like many writers, I just want to concentrate on the book that I'm working on - the content, not the "method of delivery". But, at the same time, it's ostrich-like not to think about how much money I should earn from the sale of a story I wrote that requires neither printing, binding, stocking nor shipping - at least not in the traditional senses.

In the end, I don't want to have a view on all this - I'm much more interested in the type of brakes on my heroine's 1940s bicycle - but I realise that I'm going to have to find one.'

Kate Mosse, author of Sepulchre, in the Bookseller

'Seismic convulsions... a bonanza in new prose'

3 January 2011

'Since 2000, the Anglo-American book business has been rocked by seismic convulsions. Google has digitised some 10 million titles, Barnes and Noble is for sale. Borders, bankrupt in the UK, clings on in the US. Here, Waterstones's parent company, HMV, wants to sell. Amazon's market share continues to soar. Asda, Tesco and the supermarket chains are said to be draining the life out of independent bookselling. In the US, it's claimed that ebooks are now outselling many hardbacks. By the end of 2010, 10.3 million Americans are expected to own e-readers, buying an estimated 100m ebooks (up from 3.7m e-readers and 30m ebook sales in 2009)...

The rearrangement of the book trade continues apace. Last week's New York Times Book Review contained no fewer than three separate items about the death of print. But paradoxically, the age of digitisation is both a golden age of ink (virtual and electronic as much as ink-and-paper) and a boom time for narrative, in many media, on countless "platforms", from blogs, audiobooks and trashy paperbacks to television soaps, Facebook crazes, and - yes - hardback memoirs. Not since the late 16th century has there been such a bonanza in new prose. The scale of the global audience and its extraordinary new means of self-expression get forgotten amid the legitimate anxieties over the consequences of "free content".

Robert McCrum in the Observer