By Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Published on May 23, 2024

An Inside Look at the Shifting World of Publishing: A Report from the 2024 Publishers Weekly U.S. Book Show

In the heart of New York City, around 1,000 publishing industry professionals—agents, editors, publicists, and marketers—descended upon NYU’s Kimmel Center for Student Life for the 2024 Publishers Weekly U.S. Book Show. Established four years ago when Reed International discontinued Book Expo America (BEA), this event is now a cornerstone for publishing professionals. Unlike BEA, which was primarily geared towards introducing bookseller, librarians, and the media to upcoming titles, the U.S. Book Show is dedicated to professional development and continuing education within the industry.

The State of Publishing

During her introductory remarks, Jennifer Weltz, the President of the Association of American Literary Agents, highlighted the current period of significant transition and innovation in the industry. Moderating a CEO roundtable, Lucia Rahilly from McKinsey & Company echoed this statement, questioning panelists on their views regarding the ongoing rapid changes and technological advancements in book publishing.

Scholastic's CEO, Peter Warwick, responded by acknowledging a slight downturn in sales following the pandemic peak. However, he highlighted the strength of the market, noting the increasing diversity in published content and the growing investment in literacy and freedom of expression. Aman Kochar of Baker & Taylor concurred, emphasizing the importance of authentic stories that reflect diverse experiences, especially in children’s literature, which also proves beneficial for business.

Diverse Content and New Formats

Another focal point was the increasing variety in both the content and the formats available for consumption. Mary McAveney, CEO of Abrams, expressed optimism about the growth of independent publishers and authors who are successfully reaching readers. Jonathan Karp of Simon & Schuster celebrated the boom in audio formats, which are expanding the industry’s reach:

“The outlook is bright because more people are reading…for the half of the population that doesn’t want to buy regular books, audiobooks provide an opportunity for growth.”

This trend is supported by the recent success that media streaming service Spotify has noticed in the audiobook sector, with 25% of Spotify Premium subscribers engaging with audiobooks within just six months of launching the service.

The Role of AI in Publishing

As discussions continued, Rahilly brought up the "elephant in the room"—generative AI—and its potential impact on the industry. There was a mix of opinions among the CEOs present. While some expressed concerns about protecting intellectual property, others saw great potential for AI to help publishers analyze data efficiently and discover new ways to engage with consumers.

AI can streamline a multitude of tasks and offer insights that were previously unattainable due to a lack of resources or time. However, the ongoing debate focuses on balancing the benefits of AI with the need to safeguard the creativity and rights of authors and publishers.

Looking Ahead

As the publishing industry continues to evolve, embracing new formats and technologies will be crucial. Those within the field must remain adaptive and forward-thinking to harness the opportunities of a changing landscape effectively. For more detailed insights and the full context, you can read the original article on this subject.

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May 25, 2024 — Kristin James