A couple of recent reports indicate that traditional publishing is now well past its Napster moment, where digital disruption and new business models threatened to drop-kick the industry into extinction. In fact, as reported in Forbes, mainstream publishers seem to be raking in more dough than ever, and in an era when bonuses for bankers and corporate bosses are a subject for vitriolic condemnation, the new big bonus beneficiaries appear to be book editors.
Of course, the "big bonus" in question comes in the form of $5000 checks, which isn't exactly golden parachute money. I don't think this is an all-clear moment for the publishing industry. Just because they've figured out how to maximize profits on the same old delivery systems doesn't necessarily mean they're positioned for a great future. Some of the hardcover books I review now cost nearly $40. Some of the paperbacks are nearing twenty dollars. I think what we might be seeing is an industry that's getting really good at milking money out of its preexisting audience, the way comic book companies somehow manage to subsist on an ever-shrinking audience of thirtysomething white men. I'm still a little skeptical about the future for the big publishers.