A couple of years ago I blogged that the tree were falling – a metaphor for the impending world financial crisis and the forthcoming wave of gloom, but now as 2011 start it appears that we have all the ingredients connecting to make the perfect storm. A veritable tsunami which is sweeping through publishing. The collapse of trading caused by severe weather is meeting the tailcoat of the world recession (no matter how much those greedy son’s of bitches in banking say that this is not their fault and they deserve their astronomical bonuses) is collecting on one front to meet the closure of public libraries and the uncertainty of digital publishing on the other. To continue mixing my metaphors and borrowing heavily from weather parlance I would say that the outlook for publishing is bleak and unsettled. With only half of January under our belts British Book Shops have gone into receivership (despite a buy-out in 2010, followed by a fresh injection of cash and expansion) HMV stares into the abyss and could take Waterstones closer to the edge as it looks to close 20 stores and make redundancies at its Brentwood HQ. Rising fuel prices is putting the squeeze on business, inflation is on the rise and business rates continue to hike leaving empty stores in the high street as overheads bite into profits and banks (yes, them again) refuse to extend loans to see otherwise sound businesses through extraordinary times.
The culmination of all of this could be catastrophic for book lovers. With the public sector looking set to make libraries the whipping boys of their own dilemma, adding to the misery and desolation of our communities by leaving soulless shells where once stood resplendent hubs of community activity, one wonders where we will be this time next year. The worst case scenario of this perfect storm does not bear thinking about. We are if nothing, resilient and inventive and the truth of the fact is that we can ride through this storm and come out on the other side stronger and with publishing/book selling commanding a position which belies the prophecies of doom. Personally I think it will. eBooks will be a source of growth and enjoyment for readers, offering choice and value. Bookstores will co-exist and libraries while paired down in some instances will remain and wait for an opportunity for growth once more. Oh, and bankers will continue to be in denial that they ever caused a single problem, and bleat, whinge, bitch and threaten to go to Geneva, taking the banking industry with them. God only knows what Switzerland has done to deserve that threat…apart from hoarding Nazi gold…maybe after all they would make good bedfellows.