Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Books & The Publishing Landscape Will Look Like In 2016

One question – 30 answers!
I recently asked dozens of authors and members of the book publishing community to present their thoughts on the state of books for the future. I figured if presidential elections are every four years, why not ask about 2016 for publishing? Below are the diverse responses I received – unedited.  In the near future I will reveal my own view of the future of book publishing.

“The future will continue to be about the power switch from publisher to author. This is a very exciting time in publishing. We have more options than ever before for publishing our titles and authors have the ability to go it alone in ways they never could. As time goes on, I see the larger publishers finding their way and continuing to add value to an author’s work through editorial, production and marketing efforts. They seem to be adapting to the e-book landscape very well and probably don’t get enough credit for that. As long as they continue to add this kind of value they will thrive. But authors will never need them the way they did to get published so the pressure to remain relevant will not go away. At the end of the day, the best books will rise to the top, whether they are self-published or released by a larger corporation, and that will be the way it is decades from now.”
--Scott Waxman, Founder of Diversion Books

“Just as a boomer found the transformation from black & white TV to color remarkable, the book world in 2016 will be very different. Publishers will provide content but books will be one (probably small) part of the way the content is delivered. People will read on laptops, phones, Ipads, Kindles, Nooks, etc...those of us who like to turn pages will be part of a distinct minority.”
--Debra Englander, Editorial Director, John Wiley & Sons

“What a great question.  It seems like our industry is always trying to guess what the landscape will look like in a few years.  Would anyone have guessed Navy SEAL memoirs would be a hot four years ago?  I think we need to be prepared to adjust and change to the new technology formats that will appear.  When I started in the industry, publishing was old-fashioned and resistant to change.  Now, publishing is adaptable and looking for the cutting-edge new ideas .  We all have to be open-minded and keep abreast of the tech world which used to be separate from the book world.  To be out-of-date is career suicide.”
--Kim Bouchard, Sales, Operation and Event Manager, Macmillan Speakers Bureau,

“It’s been said that all good things come to an end. I can only hope that’s not true for paperbacks and hardcover books. While eBooks have become popular and the way to go, they definitely have a place, however, I don’t see them replacing the traditional way completely. There’s something about holding a book in my hands that is all part of the excitement of getting lost in a great story. Grasping it in my hands and holding that corner of the next page waiting until I reach the final word on the one before so I can hurriedly flip it over and see what happens is the soul of reading a book. Another part in all this is that some people can’t afford the Kindle or Nook or Sony eReader or the others that are out there. That’s where the original books come in even further than just the phenomenal feeling of holding the book. This feeling is something that people who are around thirty-five years old and older can relate to. Here’s hoping that we can pass the feeling along to the younger generations to keep it where it belongs, front and center, the soul of any great story.

“EBooks are great because they’re instant gratification and much more inexpensive than regular books. You can carry hundreds of bestsellers on one small tablet. And since you can carry it with you everywhere you go, you can sneak a peek at any book you’d like at every and any free moment. There’s something to be said for that. They are here to stay, but I don’t see them being all that’s available now, or ever.”
--Terri Ann Armstrong, author of seven books and executive editor at

“The economics of publishing will continue their trend of the past few years, as self-publishing becomes a less expensive and more attractive option for authors.  If publishers want to remain relevant, they will have to show that their distribution and marketing capabilities will lead to stronger sales than self-publishing can deliver, or otherwise demonstrate their value-add.” 
--Randall Bolten, Author Of Painting with Numbers:  Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

“I believe that ebooks will sweep the market and more and more people will own an eReader or iPad in some form or another. Print publishers will cave to the pressure of environmentally conscious readers and begin selling more ebooks than print. Given that books stores, even big name stores are shutting down now due to an overwhelming need for ebooks over print, I think the days of traditional bookstores will be a thing of the past and ebook stores will take over.”
--Author Shiela Stewart

From the (optimistic) viewpoint of an editor for children’s literature, I believe that there will always be a demand for hardcopy picture books. Young children enjoy hearing the turn of a page, touching the page, and exploring the page especially when the book is printed in large format. I believe that the uncertainty of the publishing market will diminish and that publishers will grow their (hardcopy) lists again.  I also feel however, that ebooks may exceed the sale of print books because they cost less than print books. 

--Randi Lynn Mrvos, Blogger and children’s magazine nonfiction editor

“Books will still look like books, though the majority of them will be primarily in ebook format by the year 2016. The pace of digital domination in books will only increase in the next four years, and it will continue to reshape the way people read books and the way publishing houses and book retailers do business.

“Publishers will see their revenues decline--and, if they're doing things right, their profit margins will somewhat ironically increase. This won't happen without some pain. Sales forces will be slashed, warehouses and other fulfillment and back office functions will be shut down or severely curtailed, and marketing efforts and dollars will shift their focus almost exclusively to the ebook marketplace. Editors and designers will continue to make most of the commercially successful books while working at or for publishing houses. And authors will continue to fight for higher royalties, as they feel the continual squeeze of tighter margins forced upon them by the overall market.

“The retail sector in 2016 will be largely shaped by the outcome of the Justice Department suit against publishers who have allegedly colluded to fix retail prices. If the JD prevails, Barnes and Noble will be crippled in its ebook retailing strategy, which may be enough to knock them out of the book business altogether. Their bricks and mortar stores will either morph into instant printing centers or revert back to the B. Dalton model of narrow selections of bestsellers in smaller physical spaces. In this scenario, Amazon could become a totally dominant force as a retailer and a publisher, controlling both what gets published and how it is sold.

“More likely, however, some sort of settlement or compromise will be reached that keeps publishers in the publishing business and Amazon primarily in the retailing business. Once Amazon experiences firsthand the thin gruel of profits to be made from the chancey and time-consuming business of book publishing, it will abandon its publishing efforts and focus on its retailing and digital expertise instead. 

“All this is not bad for the book publishing world, nor for the reading public. It's the dawn of a new age that will reshape, yet not destroy, the centuries-old traditions of reading and writing book-length material.”
--Mike Urban,

“I expect by 2016 that 50% of the books sold will be trade paperbacks and 50% ebooks, with  hardcovers reserved for 'coffee table' outsized special books, or a handful of well-known writers for collectors of first editions. There are too many e-readers with increasing popularity and ease of publishing for that not to continue to rise. Those of us who still wish to hold a book in our hot little hands will be content with trade paperback sizes. I'm probably representative of the average middle-aged reader: I want that book to hold when I'm home reading, but will use my iPad for travel and vacation reading, for ease of packing.”
--MK Graff writes a weekly crime review blog on  and is the author of a mystery series, set in the UK: Thhe Green Remains debuts this month (

“In 1985 Spielberg showed his vision of the world in Back to the Future 2 as futuristic with flying cars, and his projected year was 2015. I think people expect these levels of dramatic changes in book publishing with holograms for readers and everything electronic, but as we quickly approach the future the world is only partially different and the realism is a bummer.

“Book publishing and it’s landscape will still have the same ingredients 2016 because you cannot replace human networking with new technology entirely. There will still be industry leaders who run large publishing houses that have personal networks that can get books in readers hands on a big scale, and no matter how good an indie book is indies cannot compete at that level. Great indie books can still win the lottery when they get found, but they most likely will get lost in the plethora of books that increase every year because technology enables people like me to publish a book with only little help. Therefore in 2016 there will still be major publishers producing high-profile books AND the number of indie and self-publishers will continue to increase since profits are not always their main goal. Technology makes going at it alone much easier. In this pool of self-produced art is where the great indie books will tread without having a chance of getting noticed.

“Notice I didn’t quote an indie movie because my audience wouldn’t get the metaphor, so we will always need majors and minors so we have standards to compare our art too.”
--Dane Batty is the author and publisher of the biography Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber.

“By 2016 I think we will see many more people buying electronic readers (Kindle, iPad, Nook) and a continued rise in ebook sales. I also think that book marketing will depend even more on online platforms and promotions. It is also likely we'll continue to see continued erosion in middle range sales performers--the few bestsellers will do even better and the rest will have to compete for whatever leftover attention they can get. That said, as a book lover myself I always prefer print over ebooks. Therefore, I believe that the migration to ebooks will stabalize at some point, albeit I doubt that would happen by 2016.”
--Guy Winch Ph.D., Author: The Squeaky Wheel  and

“Publishing in 2016: What I’m afraid of is a much greater problem with books that are not vetted well, or not at all, whether they are self-published or put out by small or large presses. Already today we have too many titles that are not balanced reports, are full of inaccuracies (even in fiction), and are poorly written, edited, copy-edited and designed. “
--Linda Carlson, author, “Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest,”  

“I have no clue. Seriously, the longer I've been writing, the less I understand about how it all works and what will happen next. I'm just hoping that there will be plenty bookstores and websites for me to browse, and that my books will still be being published. “
--Toni L.P. Kelner co-editor of HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDTION

“More and more Indie publishers and authors will continue to pop up. We now live in a techno-savvy world where the intelligent author can take matters into his/her own hands and make things happen for themselves. We authors are no longer at the mercy of a handful of big publishing houses, but now have OPTIONS! Yay! I think things will get easier in some ways, but the market will also become flooded with books—some will be sub-par. Just the way it has to be. But we all learn and grow and get better by doing. More power to the struggling author. That’s cause for a resounding virtual high-five!”

“From what I can see, e-books are gaining sharply in popularity. However, I still believe that there will be a place for the paperback and hardcover books, just as vinyl records are coming back. According to recent Nielsen SoundScan numbers, vinyl was the fastest-growing musical format in 2010, with 2.8 million units sold, the format's best year since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. Will this be the same with the print books?”
--Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of

“I envision a reading world that revolves around e-readers, much more functional and convenient than the ones we use now. I think dead tree reading products will become expensive, multiples of their current prices, something for connoisseurs. This because the e-readers will be so inexpensive and enjoyable. I’m really thinking of books here, not periodicals. I imagine they will all but disappear, especially newspapers. Environmental protection and the investment of vast forests required to produce the world’s newspapers everyday will become untenable, and in practical terms, when opened and unfolded, they require a lot of space. At most, it will be a luxury item to maintain the pleasure of spending Sunday morning with the newspaper, nothing more. “
--Author  James Thompson

“Hopefully, books and the publishing landscape of 2016 will be pretty much as it is today, only better...with a more evenly balanced presentation of all formats of publishing, be they hardcover, softcover or electronic editions.  Ideally, the "one or the other" scenario will be replaced with the realization that all formats can happily exist simultaneously.  And that, in some way, publishing by then will not only be able to properly represent the very best of what humanity has to write, but that the industry itself will serve metaphorically for the human race in general.  By 2016, maybe all people, of every "format," i.e., race, creed, spiritual belief or religion, will be able to co-exist happily beyond the "one or the other"/"us or them" mentality that unfortunately haunts humanity today.  Books, like human beings, possess the great power to communication; they parallel one another in so many ways.  So, as long as our words, our minds and our thoughts can be printed in hardcopy or electronic format, our words and our thoughts can also being imprinted in the hearts, minds and souls of our brothers and sisters from every walk of life.  There is room in the great library of humanity for every good human being, as there is room for every good book, no matter what the “format”…literally.” 
--Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about popular culture, including TWITCH UPON A STAR: THE BEWITCHED LIFE AND CAREER OF ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, which will be published in November 2012 by Taylor Trade.  

“I believe in 2016 books will be read on phones, i-pads, computers, and all sorts of electronics. I also believe the book will still come with a cd to listen and read the book at the same time. I also believe books will still be available in paperback. I would love to have a children’s radio station that does nothing but read children’s books and books that go along with the weather, the time of year, holidays, and history. This is what I believe and want.”

“With the looming 'environmental crisis', costs, expansion of self-publishing, eBooks, and advances in technology, I believe the publishing industry is going to see significant if not historical changes by 2016. We can no longer ignore the population boom and the strain this is having on our environment. We are consuming more, and faster, than the earth can produce. We need to preserve what we do have and maintain what is used; recycling does help, but it's limited when not everyone contributes. As far as technology goes this is also helping to change the publishing landscape; the traditional publishers are no longer necessary, and as time advances, their influence will become less and less, adapting is the key. I see more self-publishing in the future, less paper books, increasing numbers of eBooks and improved eReader technology, a growing need for better publishing software, better marketing, specialized paper book printing, more freelance editors, book cover artists, and others currently involved in the industry. I also believe with technological advance comes some sacrifice, and problems, such as pirating and copyright infringement. But I also trust that there will always be a need for paper books, as they are a part of our history, the true roots of human development as a civilization. I'm excited about the future, mesmerized by the technology and what it can do for me as an author, but I'm also treading carefully in the hopes that somewhere we can find a happy medium. I don't want to see us (humans) lose the paper books.”

“Bleak, depressing, the continual beginning to end publication as we know it today.  More people are publishing E-books or Apps, because the demand is there for the change.  It is the way the people are choosing to go.  In four years I have a feeling that there will be at least a 50% drop in publication in the traditional paper books.  Even the schools are using i-Pads/Pods in the class rooms instead of books today.  There is less cost involved with e-books and apps, no shipping cost, and a person can have a e-book/app in seconds.   No trees loose their lives, which takes away a natural resource,  no storage of books, less paper waste, less waste for the landfills, just to name a couple reasons why people are continuing to change to devices instead of buying a book.  
“Of course the results of this move into the tech world is going to cause other issues that will also be devastating.  There will not be a need for a Library, you will be able to get your information online. Many of thousands of people will become unemployed, as the world transcends into the new way of being.  As with all things about change, it will be a snowball effect, until the sun returns and brings forth new growth, a new beginning.”  
--Sondra Smith, Author of Write The Right Word (App is available at;

“I believe eBooks will continue to evolve to the point where print books will not be in as great a demand.  As the price of eReaders goes down, more and more people will chose this as an option.  Even children's books are now becoming available in eBook format, and I see this continuing to grow.  Color eReaders are becoming ever more popular, enhancing the reading experience. Perhaps art books and "coffee table" books will still be available for gift giving, but I don't see many others being printed. The wide range of eBook publishers has opened the publishing field to many new writers, and I see this as an ongoing trend. I believe readers like being able to try out new authors for the lower cost of an eBook.”
--Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz, editor/author,

“As for what publishing will look like in 2016, though print books will still be published, the e-book market will be huge. I’m guess at least 80% of people will have an e-reader of some sort and I’m guessing many will be reading on tablets. I was e-published way back when there was no such thing as an e-reader, so this revolution has taken longer than I thought it would.”
--Author Marilyn Meredith aka F. M. Meredith and blog

“I'm not sure this will happen as soon as 2016, but I predict some books will have an interactive component similar to video games on the Wii system where viewers dance in music videos, play sports, do yoga, etc. In the book version, the reader will choose which character he or she wants to play, such as the Mad Hatter or Alice in Alice in Wonderland, and "read" or "act" the story alone or with friends who play other characters. This is actually a lovely continuum, as one of the original forms of storytelling was theatre.”
--Marcela Landres, Editorial Consultant and author of the e-book, How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You,  

“Books and the publishing world will look quite different in many ways by 2016; even though much of the change has already begun. Computer technology grows by leaps and bounds on an almost daily basis. IPods with apps can allow one to order a pizza, have a bottle of wine delivered and in the coming years, a book to go with this. Electric publishers like Kindle and Nook already have much more on their agenda than books. Amazon sells all its products through Kindle as well as games, magazines , etc. In the future, there will be enough apps on the electronic books to never have to leave the house. 

“Libraries, as we know them may became obsolete, and changed into museums for books to be admired, but not lent out since few books, if any will be printed.  Places like Blockbusters, who deal mostly with videos and discs, may merge with electronic books, enabling one business to handle everything the consumer needs. Amazon's business tactics, along with a depressed economy have taken out most bookstores, as well as small presses. Even the big publishing houses are feeling the crunch and may be obsolete in less years than 2016. Amazon can publish, print, distribute and promote, all at the same time and on demand. Eventually they will go totally digital and that will be the beginning of the end for printed books. As for me, I'm hoarding my favorite printed books to pass down to future generations, who may never get to hold and read a printed book, which will be a travesty for readers who love the feel and texture of real books.” 

“Going to be GREAT! I think by 2016 nearly everyone will be reading eBooks, big publishers will be fewer and farther between, and more authors will have the opportunity to get their message out. Just a few years ago, as I lectured at eldercare conferences, no one used eBook readers, but now I notice many more doing so. This ease-of-use trend will undoubtedly continue to grow and become the norm as technology advances. And, as a self-publisher, I love it because it means less hassle with printers (been through four), stocking inventory, shipping to wholesalers, damaged and lost returns -- nightmares!

“My Publishing Story: After caring for my (once-adoring) challenging elderly father and sweet aging mother, both with Alzheimer’s undiagnosed for over a year, I finally figured everything out medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially and emotionally. Compelled to help others (especially from getting so frustrated they commit elder abuse) resulted in ‘Elder Rage’, even though I had never written anything but a postcard. After two years of writing and securing 50 professional endorsements, I was thrilled to get three offers to publish, but then so disappointed at the ridiculously low offers. I decided to figure out how to self-publish and am very glad I did, as it has become a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 300+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, is required reading at numerous universities, and considered for a film!”
--Jacqueline Marcell, Author 'Elder Rage', Host 'Coping With Caregiving' Radio Show at wsRadio, International Speaker on Eldercare & Alzheimer's.

"In the publishing industry we always get hung up on new technologies- but history shows how quickly most of them pass by.   I go back to CD Roms, and sound tapes and all kinds of clever encyclopedias on gadgets- all of which went through a phase of being the great new hope and the talk of every convention and book fair- and are now largely forgotten.

“We are really about writing and reading - and what will define the industry in four or forty years is the writing that is being done. Let us pray for some new writers of all kinds, from thrillers to lifestyle, to children's authors, to senior folk who have a lifetimes’ experience about which they can write fluently.  Let it always be surprising, sharp, imaginative, truthful, fascinating, shocking and brilliant.

“I'm not at all religious, but one of my favourite books is Genesis - the story of how things got going: it is outrageous, full of insight, lewd and the product of an inventive mind that would stagger an editor in the Big 6 if it was offered today.  Let's have more like that.

“Maybe all that will change is that the big 6 will become the big 10.  Let's hope it doesn't turn into the Big 3. And finally there is a big future in fruit:  Apple, Orange, Banana -  and Bilbary. Good for all of us.”
--Tim Coates, Founder of Bilbary, Pledges to Save Libraries

“I think there will be great variety in the publishing industry by 2016. Paper copies will not have disappeared but ebooks will become commonplace and accepted as a format to enjoy. I think there will still be disagreement about whether self-published books should be accepted in the mainstream - but, nonetheless, authors will continue to choose self-publishing as a viable option.”
 --Dianne Ascroft

“The question is a very good one. The way technology is changing, those who’re in this business really need to stay on top of that game.  My crystal ball isn’t well-tuned; I can only speculate based on what I hear from the author side of things. I think the big six publishers in New York are going to have a very difficult time. For decades (and up to the present moment) they seem determined to operate as usual.

“Small presses who react to demand in real time – those who have embraced technology and keep a staff employed to change websites, modes of book delivery and information in a few hours – will probably come out on top. New York is still operating under the 70’s business model; still ‘deciding’ whether electronic publishing is a good gamble. They appear to ‘play’ to the masses by toying with electronic publishing but they’re offering authors pitiful royalties and are still grabbing all the rights they can. In the world we live in right now, there are ways for authors to slide right around them and publish ‘themselves’. In the future,  massive publishing consortiums probably won’t exist if they can’t bring prices down,  and insist on charging more for electronic books than the reading public is willing to pay. Print won’t be obsolete but - with rising fuel costs, the higher costs to print in mass book formats or even trade formats – books in stores are going to be on the high end of luxury items. E-readers will come down in price, like a lot of technology does over time. Readers may prefer to keep the books they’ve bought when storage capacity yields libraries of millions of the space of a back pocket or less. But bookstores with e-kiosks could popup, pushing aside the need for large print bookstores selling very pricey, unaffordable titles.

“Authors who know the business aren’t going to give their rights away by the fistful any longer. Publishers (small or large) who disdained author rights and abide by the old adage... “There are thousands of people standing in line waiting to be published. If you don’t like our contracts who needs you,”  is going the way of the dodo. A lot of us will self publish, keep our rights, keep our money, manage our own careers and say goodbye entirely to the print world as distribution online reaches countries print never could. Publishers will give up the idea they own the authors and their work; they’ll be offering exorbitant contracts to only a few best selling authors, but won’t bring in the cash flow necessary to maintain their 70’s  business model.

“BUT...there will be hundreds of publishing concerns offering legitimate self pubbing packages for authors, including editing sources, book cover design sources, distribution sources, etc. All of this will be done online, obviously. But readers, especially those who grew up in the past decade knowing how to find their way around computers, will surely demand their reading material electronically. The idea of paying for an item and having it delivered in minutes, in your home or on your device, will outweigh more traditional methods of book distribution. Electronic books will include far more material (links, pictures, artwork, maps, animation, etc.) than print ever could. Reading an ebook will be a movie-like experience that could include music, the option to purchase the book as an audio/movie copy, etc. Advertisers will see the advantage of product placement in books or ad placement in books; authors will probably be making their own ad deals, to be included within the electronic copies of their titles. Again, all the technology that can be included in an electronic devise – including holographics one day – will leave traditional publishers in the cold especially since they keep raising the costs of products to cover their traditional means of delivery.

“Again, all this is speculation. But if it comes to pass authors will be better off. The readers will be better off because competition will yield better products at lower prices. Authors who can deliver quality products prolifically, will have the advantage. Readers won’t want to wait a year or more for series titles to be delivered (fiction) and authors won’t wait to see if the publisher will contract their next books...they’ll publish themselves.

“Publishers should be very nervous. Failure to offer better contracts, failure to build accurate/fast royalty delivery systems, and dishonesty in their business dealings will kill them entirely (ref: Dorchester Publishing).

“The most important issue to come about: Authors will take charge of pricing, distribution, rights, editing, advertising and formatting. The best sellers will, by-and-large, be books that are offered online. There won’t be a ‘big six’ publishing ‘system’ any longer.” 
--Author Candace Sams (aka C.S. Chatterly) *Celebrating 50 books in publication!* 

“There will be more digital books, but I think the physical and digital markets will begin to offer different experiences.  Digital books can be enhanced and many companies are beginning to expand into the area with combinations of audio and visual additions.  I think physical books will offer better tactile and artistic experiences for people who like to hold books. Sites selling digital books will have to find a way to compensate for the lack of good browsing experiences.  Publishers will sell digital books more directly than they do now.  There will be much more attention on branding, from imprints to authors.  And consumer education will change completely.  Books began to be price driven years ago with the discounting of bestsellers.   I think even though there will be a certain market always interested in low prices,  consumes are going to have to become as smart when buying digital products as when they buy electronics.  Review sources will become very important.  Media attention is changing.  People read their phones so social media will become an even more important purveyor of trusted information.”
--Cynthia Robbins, Library Specialist and Senior Account Manager, Globe Pequot Press

"As the older generation passes on and the world continues to navigate to a greener world, the book and publishing industry will continue to evolve to e-Books including text books and workbooks for our youngest school age through secondary education. I myself, enjoy the good old print book in my hands especially reference books where I can earmark and highlight to the hilt. "Going green" at times to me is an oxymoron, at least paper is biodegradable, what about all the electronics, batteries, and electricity that are being utilized. Hopefully people are recycling accordingly and the recycling centers are doing their due diligence to truly recycle the goods."
--Donna McDine, Award-winning children's author,

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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