In light of the recent meltdown of the financial sector, and with the specter of a global recession looming over our spending habits, it’s an excellent time to examine how the fallout will affect the literary world.
There’s been a few articles on this, including this one, “Will Books Be Immune to Global Recession?” Eric Chinski of FSG hopes that books will be more immune than other items: “At the end of the day, books have more long-term value than movies, music, gadgets, homes.” (Movies, yes. But homes?)
It’d be useful to analyze what happened to books during the Great Depression (more sharing, less buying) or during less extreme periods of American economic slowdowns such as the 1987 stock market crash. Also, although big-box corporate environments like B&N and Amazon are barometers for the market, they aren’t an entirely accurate reflection of the more extreme impact declining book sales might have on independent bookstores. Publishers Weekly, while taking into account how the economy has shut down some indie bookstores, actually forecasts that some new independent bookstores will do quite well.
I doubt that the rare books market will suffer as much as the mass online pharmacy for sale market. Self-help books will probably actually see a boom, while more literary titles might take a hit. There’s also this interesting forum on how a recession will affect academic publishing.
It’s a perfect storm of events for a new author — not only trying to promote a book by [their] unknown name, but to cajole people to spend money when people are scrimping rather than tossing out largesses. Galleycat offers this video with Jay McInerney on what the recession means for writers.
Might this financial crisis lead to an expansion of the digital literary market?
Over in Germany, one publisher has found that the current financial crisis has made Karl Marx fashionable again. The BBC reports that “publisher Karl-Dietz said it sold 1,500 copies of Das Kapital this year — up from the 200 it usually sells annually.”