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View Full Version : A Recession's Effect On Publishing?



otterman
01-23-2008, 03:00 AM
With the threat of a recession hitting the US (if it hasn't already started), I was wondering what the effects of a major economic downturn will have on publishing. Will it be the same as for other industries? Will people spend less and, therefore, buy fewer books? Do people continue to buy books in hard(er) times as a way to escape fiscal worries? Will publishing companies be more selective in choosing works in order to watch the bottom line? Any thoughts? Maybe some of you have been around long enough to know what to expect.

mscelina
01-23-2008, 03:11 AM
Why in the heck are people trying to make me think today? Dangit...I just want to post LOLCatz and be silly.

I'm not certain how much of an impact a recession would have upon the publishing industry as a whole. Personally, I wouldn't think it would have too much of an impact; I don't recollect coming across anything to indicate that in the Great Depression or any of the other smaller recessions impacted the publishing industry per se.

Mr Flibble
01-23-2008, 03:15 AM
OK, as a person on a limited budget ( incapacity benefit) I'll tell you how my money situation has impacted on my reading habits

I don't buy new authors ( I used to try at least one a month), except at the charity shop, unless I've tried them at the library and am sure I like them. Author's I like, I buy one a month ( or occassional splurge at the said charity shop). Books are, when all is said and done, a luxury. I'd rather eat than read.

Any recession will hit every ( or almost every) business. Luxury items get hit the worst, and that includes books. No matter how much an avid reader you are, if your money barely makes the rent/mortgage/food, you aren't going to buy a book.

And publishers are a business. It will hit them too. And they will almost certainly react the same as any other busines - only go for something that will make you money. They don't want to be on the breadline either.

Bummer, but there you are.

edit: lolcatz - here you go

http://i110.photobucket.com/albums/n83/spinynorman_2006/fMAIucxfrI.jpg

Stijn Hommes
01-23-2008, 03:20 AM
I read that recession nonsense in the paper.
The stock exchange people feared a recession so they sold their shares which (ironically) is what actually causes the recession. If those stock brokers wouldn't be so paranoid...

mscelina
01-23-2008, 03:27 AM
I'm not quite as convinced that's what causes a recession, precisely, but that's an argument for a different thread.

Now see for me, I'll give up things like beer and gas money before I give up my monthly allotment of books so I'm assuming that's just a strange personal quirk on my part.

As for the publishing companies, I read somewhere (and now will probably have to dig up) that they've been in a recessive type financial situation for several years (with the exception of Scholastic in Harry Potter years). I'd be tempted ot believe that, if this is the case, that initially nothing in the industry would change because it's already there.

If that makes sense.

Lemme go through my google history. I know I read this article yesterday.

Stormhawk
01-23-2008, 03:59 AM
Maybe ebooks will become more prominent?

mscelina
01-23-2008, 04:03 AM
*insert obligatory shameless plug to BUY MY BOOK here*

Perhaps. Although, at the moment, an e-book reader is still a little cost-prohibitive.

*go on, click the link--you know you want to!*

Christine N.
01-23-2008, 04:24 AM
True, but everyone has a computer. Maybe more people will live with reading books on screen?

Doubt it, but it was a thought.

And with the debut of the roll-up, e-ink, e-book reader and phone just a few days away... dang it.

mscelina
01-23-2008, 04:30 AM
<---personally has no trouble reading ebooks on her laptop.

blacbird
01-23-2008, 04:33 AM
Won't affect me any.

caw

Shadow_Ferret
01-23-2008, 05:37 AM
Now see for me, I'll give up things like beer and gas money before I give up my monthly allotment of books so I'm assuming that's just a strange personal quirk on my part.

Not me. Beer and gas are necessities to survival.

Books are just nice things to have when I've spent my money on silly things like food and bills.
True, but everyone has a computer. Maybe more people will live with reading books on screen?
I'll never give up my books. I'd sooner not read than be forced to read electronically. I lke the feel, the smell, the look of books. I can't sit and stare at a shelf of my electronic books.

Cathy C
01-23-2008, 05:42 AM
Well, last time around (yes, I sadly AM that old) books actually did BETTER than other entertainment forms. The price of a movie, snacks and gas wound up being a bit out of reach compared to a couple of paperbacks. My mom bought books for us by the loads and we wiled away the summer days with a book. Library check-outs also increase. I don't worry too much about it. I'd worry a LOT more if I was in the movie industry. Feel sort of sorry for those guys---especially the ancilliary services (caterers, florists, etc.)

mscelina
01-23-2008, 05:44 AM
*shrug* I have a personal collection of well over 3000 books, so you'll get no argument from me. Trust me: I still have a growing and vital 'real' book collection. However, I also am expanding into e-books. I like the convenience of having countless books on my laptop without carrying a rucksack of heavy books every time I travel.

That's neither here nor there, however. The topic, I beleive, is the recession and its effects on the publishing industry.

ATP
01-23-2008, 04:21 PM
Googling "recession effects book publishing" (no italics) -59K hits. Good material pages 1-2 (and more if you've a researcher's bent).

Keyboard Hound
01-23-2008, 06:57 PM
When recession hits, often people do not take vacations or entertain out as much. They replace this with less costly activities such as gardening and reading.

johnnysannie
01-23-2008, 07:14 PM
It's simple - when people have less money to spend on books - as opposed to necessities like food, gasoline, utilities - less books will be sold.

I love books; I have thousands throughout the house, on shelves that line the basement, in book cases, on book shelves, in my nightstand, even in bathroom. I often buy books but as the prices have gone up, I buy less and go the library more or re-read what I have.

chartreuse
01-23-2008, 09:59 PM
I read that recession nonsense in the paper.
The stock exchange people feared a recession so they sold their shares which (ironically) is what actually causes the recession. If those stock brokers wouldn't be so paranoid...

We could argue all day about what the current recession is (I happen to disagree with you) or even what indicates that we are in a recession (I've heard some doozies here as well) but keeping with the question in the OP, I think it's more relevant to look at the facts surrounding the lives of everyday citizens.

For years, people have been spending more money than they had coming in. Ever-rising house prices allowed folks to suck out equity at an alarming rate. Rather than looking at their houses as investments or just plain homes, they looked at them as ATMs. Many of these people had no business buying a home at all, but thanks to a perfect storm of personal greed and corporate greed, they were given loans that they had no chance of ever being able to pay off. The only way they managed to stay afloat was because the housing bubble was literally creating money for them out of thin air in the form of, again, rising house prices. The only thing sustaining that bubble was the banks' continued willingness to provide credit to the not-credit-worthy. But that didn't work out so well for them, the industry is facing massive losses, and they aren't writing the loans that would allow the real estate market to stay afloat.

So now the party has ended and the $600 or $800 or $1000 a month difference between the bills that need to be paid and the available cash coming in is getting to be a problem. Heating oil has more than tripled in price since 2001, gas is not far behind, and food prices on many items are through the roof. Health insurance/health care costs are increasing by double digits every year.

So, if you're Joe American right now, you have income that doesn't cover your expenses, no savings, your pantry is empty because you thought buying interest in a timeshare was more important than putting back a few months worth of food for an emergency, and you've got a houseful of useless electronic crap that you can't even sell because no one else has the money to buy it. You maxed out your credit cards when their was no equity left in your house. So how are you likely to react?

"Badly" is the first word that comes to mind, but eventually reality will sink in. You can't go out any more for meals, might even have to learn how to cook, you have to scale back to basic cable, a $60 trip to the movie theater is now a luxury, and you're looking around for options. A new hardback probably isn't in your budget, but a paperback might be.

I'm guessing that as the next few years unwind (and yes, I mean years - we're in for a long, hard ride here) people are going to rediscover reading in a major way. I wouldn't be surprised if the publishers start releasing "budget editions" - the cheapest possible coverstock and paper - or offering other discounts, say packaging two or three of an author's works together at a bargain price.

Overall, I think the recession (or even depression) will be good for authors as far as being published and read. People really are going to be needing to escape their troubles. Advances and royalties, however, will probably go down.

Sassee
01-23-2008, 11:24 PM
I agree with chartreuse. Whenever I feel like my budget is getting tight (even in non recession-threatened times) I reach for a book instead of going out to dinner or some other form of entertainment that costs money. We've already cut our cable completely, which caused my husband to pick up a book series he's been trying to read since last spring.

I also think publishing will probably do better than other entertainment industries, but then, I have no experience with this sort of thing.

Shadow_Ferret
01-23-2008, 11:37 PM
We could argue all day about what the current recession ....
Who said it's a recession? The media? I've heard economic experts say it could just as easily be termed an economic slow down.

S.H.P.
01-24-2008, 12:47 AM
I agree with chartreuse. Whenever I feel like my budget is getting tight (even in non recession-threatened times) I reach for a book instead of going out to dinner or some other form of entertainment that costs money. We've already cut our cable completely, which caused my husband to pick up a book series he's been trying to read since last spring.

I also think publishing will probably do better than other entertainment industries, but then, I have no experience with this sort of thing.

I follow the same train of thought. I barely watch T.V. maybe four hours worth a week. But I can't make it if I have nothing to read. I read 5/6 books a week. Take my family, my friends, my dog, my neighbors, but leave me my books, and my money, and my jewelry, and my good shoes, and my coats, any my laptops.

chartreuse
01-24-2008, 01:21 AM
Who said it's a recession? The media? I've heard economic experts say it could just as easily be termed an economic slow down.

Sure, some have said that. Others say it will be a recession, but we're not there yet. Others say we are in a recession and it's going to be tough, but there's no need to panic. Others say we're in a recession and it's going to be a miracle if we don't end up in a depression.

So everyone's best bet is to stop listening to the media and the so-called "experts" and to look at what's happening around them. Look at the number of foreclosures. Look at the layoffs (particularly spectacular in the banking/mortgage industries, but by no means contained there). Look at the housing developments sitting half-finished. Look at the reports of cities that are having to take banks to court to force them to maintain the properties they've repossessed, because nobody can get the credit to buy them and the banks are just abandoning them to nature, thieves and squatters.

Then look at the affairs of your average citizen (which I went over in my last post). How is "Joe American" going to do his patriotic duty and keep the economy going, buying new cars every few years, eating out more than he eats at home, giving the kids new gaming consoles each year for their birthdays, etc., when the only sources of funds - home equity and credit cards, are gone? Fact is, he isn't, and the ripple effect from the shutting off of the Great American Spending Spree is going to be something to behold indeed. You can call it a depression, recession, or an "economic slowdown," but life in the U.S. is going to be a lot, lot different over the next three or four years. And NOT in a good way.

Got books?

stormie
01-24-2008, 01:31 AM
People will be buying more recycled books--books at library book sales, flea markets, garage sales, book swaps on the Internet....
:cry:
I think I need some chocolate and a shot of schnapps.

BarbaraKE
01-24-2008, 04:56 PM
Well, last time around (yes, I sadly AM that old) books actually did BETTER than other entertainment forms. The price of a movie, snacks and gas wound up being a bit out of reach compared to a couple of paperbacks. My mom bought books for us by the loads and we wiled away the summer days with a book. Library check-outs also increase. I don't worry too much about it.

Personally, I don't consider books a cheap form of entertainment. Hardcover books are ridiculously expensive and a paperback costs about the same as going to a movie. I can see library use going up but that doesn't help the publishing industry.

Twizzle
01-24-2008, 05:57 PM
Personally, I don't consider books a cheap form of entertainment. Hardcover books are ridiculously expensive and a paperback costs about the same as going to a movie. I can see library use going up but that doesn't help the publishing industry.

increased library use does help the industry. libraries purchase new books. in our town, during the last recession, they're ordering went up to cover demand. the good thing about libraries is their budgets are set and set into the future. though the problem is inflation. if costs go up, they'll cut spending in some areas to cover others. like oil bills. our town cut hours because of the increase in oil-thank goodness-and not book ordering.

Twizzle
01-24-2008, 05:59 PM
People will be buying more recycled books--books at library book sales, flea markets, garage sales, book swaps on the Internet....
:cry:
I think I need some chocolate and a shot of schnapps.

library book sales can be good. again, we clean out our old or low-circ books and donations and sell them. that money goes back into the book budget. which the library uses to buy new books. which helps support the industry.

stormie
01-24-2008, 10:20 PM
library book sales can be good. again, we clean out our old or low-circ books and donations and sell them. that money goes back into the book budget. which the library uses to buy new books. which helps support the industry.
Yes, in a way, it does help support the industry, but what about us--the authors of those books--not receiving royalties on those recycled books? (For the record, I just donated over 50 books to my local library and do encourage it. I also do go to their every-four-month book sale.) Hard cover books are getting more and more expensive to buy brand new. Even paperbacks aren't cheap. So with less people buying brand-new books, writers receive less royalties.

*Runs off for more chocolate*

Twizzle
01-24-2008, 11:42 PM
Yes, in a way, it does help support the industry, but what about us--the authors of those books--not receiving royalties on those recycled books? (For the record, I just donated over 50 books to my local library and do encourage it. I also do go to their every-four-month book sale.) Hard cover books are getting more and more expensive to buy brand new. Even paperbacks aren't cheap. So with less people buying brand-new books, writers receive less royalties.

*Runs off for more chocolate*

grab some for me, too. :) you have a great point. and in my opinion, the industry will just have to adjust. it always has and I have to think it will in the future. you might see more paperbacks, more e-books, etc. who knows. I still think there will be demand, but in different areas. not that it might not be painful for some, but it will be profitable for others.

and you're definitely right-other second-hand sales mean no royalties for those authors. but purchasing from a library still indirectly means royalties. they're taking books which have come to the end of their useful commercial life-old, low circ, or donated. they can throw them out or they can sell them. which is awesome, because the money earned from that sale IS going to buy new books-which does mean royalties for those new authors. so no, you don't directly benefit, but the industry does. and your local landfill.

so, donate and buy from libraries. just make sure your library does indeed use the proceeds for their book funds.

Will Lavender
01-25-2008, 03:20 AM
Selfishly, I'm thinking of some way to spin this.

If my first novel doesn't do well, I'll just say, "Well, damnit, it was a RECESSION." Then they'll have to sign me for a second book.

Won't they?... :Shrug:

triceretops
01-25-2008, 03:58 AM
Well, if the economy is adversely affected, I think it might boil down to people purchasing more mass market paperbacks rather than the more expensive quality trades. It would put the negative bite on hardcovers as well.

Tri