Picoult '87, writers question future of print media
Some of the panelists spoke about the e-book sales of their own books. Picoult noted that 54 percent of her most recent novel’s sales were print books while 46 percent were e-books.
“I’m selling more books, but I am making one third less money because of the lower price of e-books,” she said. “Next year I think I will have equal or more sales of e-books but this is not necessarily to the advantage of the author.”
Achenbach agreed with Picoult’s feelings toward the pricing of e-books and other electronic content.
“I’ve wondered how is my employer making any money off of what I’m doing? Should I report stories or just start tweeting?” he said.
Gutierrez spoke about the way that advertising in newspapers has adapted to this shift from a traditional print model to a newer online media-based model.
“Our [advertising] numbers in terms of print have decreased, but now we are distributing content in new ways like Twitter,” she said. “The distribution is changing, but the content hasn’t.”
Nicholas presented statistics indicating that Americans are reading more content overall. He said that one problem for media corporations is figuring out how to maintain their previously established relationships with their consumers when content distribution shifts to an online format.
“There are still examples of organizations figuring out how to keep their previous relationship with consumers,” he said.
However, Picoult offered a different view of the adaptability of media organizations and publishing houses.
“Publishers are dinosaurs. They were caught with their pants down with e-books,” she said.
She also noted the increasing importance of social media in publishing.
“Social media is a huge part of my life now. That is where people find out about their beloved writers now,” she said. “Anyone can get published, but that doesn’t mean anyone will know it exists ... It is about making people know it’s out there.”
Achenbach agreed that writers now have to do more self-promotion and marketing to sell their work.
“Entrepreneurs are going to do well in this system, the people who will hustle,” he said.
The panel also spoke about the problems of piracy and aggregation of online media content.
“I hate to be so whiny, but pay me for what I do,” Achenbach said.
However, the panel noted that it is not just about making sure that their writing sells. Picoult said she does not think the profitability of e-books is an accurate measure of the success of her writing.
“We believe not just in making a buck but in getting people to read. That’s why we got into this business,” she said.
The panel, titled “The Nook or the Book: What is the Future of the Printed Page?", was held in McCosh 50 and moderated by University Librarian Karin Trainer.
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