Books and music go way back — at least as far back as the epic poets, whose tales of heroic deeds were sung to gathered Greeks long before they were stuffed between two covers for high school students. When singer-songwriter Joe Pernice signed his first book deal a few years back, for the novel “It Feels So Good When I Stop,” his press release made the tie explicit: “I am really excited to join the Penguin family, where I get to be label mates with writers like Homer.”
While it’s hard to think of a content-producing industry that hasn’t been profoundly affected by the rise of digital technology, the businesses that create books and music have confronted very different realities.
Napster, file sharing and the rise of the MP3 turned a once highly profitable business on its ear. American sales of recorded music dropped by more than 50 percent in the first decade of this century, as CD sales plummeted and digital sales couldn’t rise fast enough to keep up. The average American bought less than four albums a year in 1999; that had dropped to barely one by 2009.
Meanwhile, while it’s not quite accurate to call the book industry thriving, it hasn’t faced anything near the trauma the music business has. At least not yet. […]