May 252006
 

Here’s an interesting Lulu.com press release via Boing Boing,

Life Expectancy of Bestsellers Plummets

In a lovely bit of PR framing Lulu founder Bob Young says “The plummeting life-expectancy of a fiction bestseller reflects the way that the publishing industry is unravelling, in an age of over-production, plus media fragmentation and now disruptive new technologies such as the Internet and print-on-demand: ‘The publishing revolution is nigh.'”

Nigh?

I’m as much a fan of the Long Tail as anyone, and I think that the internet is creating all sorts of new opportunities for authors (including self-publishing authors) but I’m not really looking forward to a universe of 2 million new books published each year that go on to sell 1000 copies each, and I think that this Lulu statistic is shallow and misleading.

Why look at only the time spent at the top by the #1 book? Why not include figures like total books sold as a percentage of population? The time each novel spent on the top ten? Foreign rights and overseas publishing success? The number of movies or TV shows hatched from books? Overall author royalties?

There are so many other metrics of publishing success.

I’d see an abbreviated reign of books at #1 as being maybe something right with the industry, an improvement in distribution and opportunity, and evidence of a more interesting, and varied, culture, and a sign that the publishing industry despite all sorts of challenges (TV, the Internet, Gaming) is competitive and healthy.

Lulu seems pretty cool compared to many of the POD presses, they don’t seem to over-promise and they have a book that I’ve actually seen on an Amazon category bestseller list, but blockbusters are alive and well, and I think that the larger than 10 million copy laydown of the last Harry Potter might be proof of that.

A more cogent analysis might suggest that culture moves more quickly these days, fads expire quickly, people read the next big thing more quickly.

Even more evidence of cultural fragmentation, didn’t I hear somewhere that Pink Floyd fell off the billboard chart? No, Dark Side of the Moon has been on the chart for a (non-consecutive) 1500 Weeks! That’s a while, eh?

  •  May 25, 2006
  •  Posted by at 12:06 pm
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