Finally, experts suggest that publishers missed crucial opportunities to cope with digital books, Internet innovations and economic pressures. “The big houses proved incapable of looking at the future. I’ve always been struck at how relatively un-nimble the big houses are,” says Tom Engelhardt, a consulting editor at Metropolitan books and the author of the prophetic novel “The Last Days of Publishing.” He recently wrote an essay about the crisis at his Web site, TomDispatch.com, and says he predicted the crash for years — but no one would listen.
This is in line with my own anecdotal experience in publishing. For the most part, the publishers I’ve dealt with seem only to have recently become aware of the demise of the quill pen, let alone the advent of the internet. Personally, I’ve had enough of it — I was already considering leaving the burning house before I even realized it was on fire. I’m not going to stop publishing books, but I am going to pursue a less traditional model. More on that some other time.
Here’s the thing about the publishing industry: the job of any given person at a publishing house is not actually to try to sell books. It is to appear as though they are trying to sell books. It is a small distinction, but a crucial one.