Much like other areas of the entertainment industries, books fall into the concept of seasons. Television shows are filmed and aired in seasons–while other times of the year re-runs are broadcast–and the movie industry has long aligned itself with seasons in which to release blockbuster films, such as action movies in the summer and family-oriented films around the holidays.
An article today for Publisher’s Weekly explains some of the thought processes and historical origins of the seasonal concept in traditional print publishing, and unlike other areas of entertainment, some of the reasons these seasons first began actually stem from the physical shipping of printed books to bookstores around the world, often by barge.
But if ebooks don’t arrive by massive boats, why are they still being lumped into seasons for new releases?
Certainly, physical books still have to be shipped to various retailers, but even that is a much faster and more cost effective process than it was in the early days of large-scale publishing. Is it possible that this is another case of “doing it the way it’s always been done?”
Amazon Publishing, the book retailer’s traditional publishing house, was one of the first to make dramatic recent changes to how publishing works when it announced that it would begin paying its authors monthly royalties instead of quarterly, like the rest of the traditional industry, citing the monthly payments that self-published authors receive as the reason. Why punish a traditionally published author by only paying him four times a year, when he would be paid each month if he had self-published?
However, digital is having an impact on this, to some extent. In the PW piece, publishers cited various reasons for sticking to a seasonal release concept, but insist that “sticking to the old ways” isn’t part of that decision making process:
“Despite blurred seasons, most publishers have stuck to seasonal catalogues, although many are now digital. ‘It isn’t just for nostalgic reasons that we still feel so strongly about the seasonal catalogue,’ said Norton president Drake McFeely. ‘Presenting our list whole and allowing recipients to see how the pieces fit together is still enormously important to us. Our catalogue is in many important ways our identity, and I know our affiliates feel the same way.’”