What Do The Best Books of 2012 Say About The State Of Publishing?

stacks-711918This article is a bit behind the times, as we’re now on the 11th of January, but I wanted to look at the types of book that won awards last year and subsequently what that says, if anything, about the industry at large.

The state of publishing nowadays is something that is discussed almost weekly, and every week it seems that opinion changes. Occasionally you will hear that eBooks are the new future but this is then countered by an article revering the world of print. So, what’s the deal? What achieved critical acclaim last year and is this even relevant to the over-riding question?

Apparently, in 2012, there were 530,000 different books published in the UK and the US alone. The critics will often wax lyrically about ten of these and dismiss the rest as fodder for the ignorant masses, but interestingly 50 Shades of Grey won Book of the Year at The National Book Awards. I’ve heard many things about this book but a literary masterpiece is not one of them. Perhaps things are changing?

I’ve always been positioned firmly in the camp of entertainment over high-brow, pretentious, over-intellectualising. (I was an Oasis fan over Radiohead, for example) If millions of people buy a book and enjoy it, for whatever reason, and then tell other’s about it, then that’s the point of it for me. I know that there’s art for art’s sake, and other’s will completely disagree with me, but if you can produce something that appeals to a lot of people then, for me, you’ve made more people happy and helped them to escape temporarily from their lives. Is that not the point of any type of art?

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was not awarded to anyone in 2012, the first time this has ever happened. Suggesting that a literary work of such merit, deserving of this accolade, had not been produced by anyone. Hmmm?

The UK seemed to embrace the masses a bit more, what with FSOG and The Booker Prize going to Hilary Mantel (who also won Author of the Year at The National Book Awards). The Booker Prize often goes for the more literary fiction but Mantel’s success was for Historical Fiction which has traditionally been over-looked.

People’s reading habits have certainly changed due to eBooks and more people are reading the types of books that they want to read. Sales figures for books like FSOG are evidence of this because there would have been no way that women on tubes would have read that book in print form to the extent that they did on eReaders. The awards need to recognise this shift if they are to stay relevant and be a guide for the best books around.

Low-brow fiction, I guess, has always out-sold it’s more cerebral siblings but I think the extent to which this is happening is now increasing. All in all, I think this is good news for most self-publishers who, by large, want to write the types of books that they want to write.

The roller-coaster is bound to continue in 2013 as the industry continues to settle  but for me, and anyone like me, it’s not really important. There will be more routes to market made available for self-publishers, more avenues to promote through and more readers to reach as the trend continues to increase for eReaders. Good times!

Do you have any thoughts on this? Or perhaps you think I’ve got it completely wrong?


2 responses to “What Do The Best Books of 2012 Say About The State Of Publishing?

  1. eBooks, like print books, have their place. For me the issue about e. v. print is as much about convenience as anything else.
    For example it’s so much easier to carry an eReader than a print book, especially if you’re on hols and want a number of books with you….the lack of weight will weigh the argument in favour of an eBook!
    Also reading in bed is easier with a reader than a book…again because of weight.
    As to hiding what you’re reading from other members of the public, I’m not certain that people these days care that much about the person next to them to be bothered about what that person may think of you or the book you’re reading!
    I’m finding that I’m now e-reading/re-reading some of the classics, which can be heavy in every sense of the word, I’ve just started Tolstoy’s War and Peace again and am confident that this time I won’t have either wrist injuries or a stiff back when I finish it! So if others do a similar thing then there maybe a resurrgance in reading high quality literature which means that eWriters should concentrate on the QUALITY of their output. A point you’ve made in earlier blogs re editing.
    So my point is that both ebooks and print books have their place. Currently ebooks have the fashionable edge based upon convenience of use, of prompt access and fashionable trend. But there’s something rather nice about holding a real book, or a real CD or even LP, or a real photograph……………the cyberworld is great but I think we need to retain tactile objects in our lives as well, otherwise everything potentially becomes so transient or unreal.

    • I do agree with you. The ebook v print book thing will settle with both having their place but I wonder if it somehow changes the content demanded.

      The classics are one thing but the added convenience of ebooks means that you are now willing to read in more places. This lends itself to less heavy tales being read because readers can dip in and out of easier fiction in commuting breaks etc. More easier fiction is bought and therefore success is increased.

      Will this trend in someway unfold on the entire industry?

      I hope my argument makes sense but I’m typing this while playing Lego, drinking a Friday beer and watching telly.

      Happy new year by the way


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