Lying is a part of doing business. When things are good, you leverage trust as long as it makes you money. When things are not good there’s no lie you won’t tell in order to survive.
The problem with the publishing industry is that I can’t tell whether the people in charge are lying or simply oblivious. Here’s a quote from an AP/WaPo article at the end of last year:
The economy has crashed on a supposedly recession-proof industry: book publishing. There is consolidation at Random House Inc., as well as layoffs at Simon & Schuster and at Thomas Nelson Publishers.
And here’s a quote from the Boston Globe a week ago:
“Historically, the conventional wisdom was the publishing industry was recession-proof, and if the adage was ever true it doesn’t remain the case,’’ said Gary Gentel, president of the trade and reference division at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a sponsor (along with the Globe) of the Boston Book Festival. “That said, this is the perfect time for a festival. What a great escape.’’
It’s hard for me to believe that people actually think constriction in the book business is being caused by (or primarily by) the recession. If the adage that publishing is recession-proof was ever true, it would make sense to look for other causes of trouble even if you were in the middle of a recession. There’s also the rather obvious point that the music business has been pulverized by the effects of the internet for the better part of a decade, and that the decline of newspapers has accelerated because of the internet, making it at least plausible that what’s happening in publishing has something to do with the internet.
Which would mean that these publishing voices, like all vested voices in a darkening market, are simply lying into the wind, hoping that enthusiasm, confidence, and bravado will shore up an eroded foundation. And if that’s all this is, I’m fine with it, in the same way that I was fine watching high-flying kamikaze pilots on Wall St. and in government smile as they blew up the foundation of our economy.
For the record, however, what’s hurting publishing is not the recession. It’s the internet.
— Mark Barrett