Creative Destruction is a term popularised by Austrian American Economist, Joseph Schumpeter, to describe the process through which a new technology or innovation in an industry brings about the demise of something that existed before it.
In today’s terms, mp3 players, watches, gameboys and point and shoot cameras were all replaced by the smartphone in one fell swoop; CDs were replaced by streamed digital music.
The publishing industry has received a double whammy in recent years. First along came Amazon, removing borders and offering up every book in print (and backlisted) books with a few clicks, from anywhere in the world. No longer were people herded into their local bookseller to purchase whatever was on the shelves, or if you had your heart set on a particular title, order it and wait weeks for it to be delivered to the bookshop (and pay whatever retail price had been set for that title).
People now had choice – if they embraced the new era of online book publishing.
The second blow to the established model came when digital media went mainstream, removing any delay in the purchase process as books were instantly downloaded to your electronic device. Enter frictionless buying.
So as technology has become more advanced and the ability to read books digitally has become easier, cheaper, and sometimes necessary – the demand for heavy printed tomes has diminished.
According to James Daunt, the founder of London-based independent bookseller, Daunt Books these industry shake-ups have affected some genres much more than others, with fiction, and in particular romance and thrillers have seen the biggest change in how it is consumed.
For authors of these genres, this has been a complete game-changer. The easy reading categories that are favoured by travellers, commuters and enthusiasts being accessible on a device that weighs less than one single book in those categories, have created a user-driven growth in these categories and subsequent sub-categories like we’ve never seen before.
As James Daunt observes, “People seem to have reached the point in which they have digital devices and e-readers, which play an important part in their reading, but it’s not all of their reading. And some genres of bookselling have quite clearly gone significantly over to digital, fiction above all, but others have remained embedded and rooted in the physical world.“
I agree that there is an enduring appeal of physical books, particularly when they are beautiful and ‘keep sake-ish’ in some way. There are books I treasure and hold pride of place on my bookshelf. However, as new technologies overcome the idiosyncrasies created in illustrated and layouts of text-book centric issues (don’t get me started on embedded tables!) – it stands to reason that penetration of digital into non-fiction, history and children’s books will see a surge of their own. For some late-adopting categories, it’s only a matter of time. For others, they may never get there, and that’s a good thing too.
“If you’re one of those rare people who self-publishes successfully, you’re in a great position twice over because first of all, you’ve got the sales. Secondly, you’re peeling off all the profit.” James Daunt