Here’s an article about the publishing industry that symbolizes the increasingly troubled state of the US economy. The publishing company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has taken the unusual step of halting the purchase of manuscripts:
While the past months have seen the US retail sector taking sharp hits, recent news developments have been no less startling in the publishing world. According to a November 24 report in the industry paper, Publishers Weekly, “Josef Blumenfeld, vice president of communications for HMH [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], confirmed that the publisher has ‘temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts’ across its trade and reference divisions.”
The article further notes the unprecedented nature of Houghton’s move:
A number of literary agents consulted by Publishers Weekly said they had never heard of a major publisher instructing its editors to stop buying manuscripts. “I’ve been in the business a long time and at a couple of houses I worked at, when things were bad, we were asked to cut back,” said agent Jonathon Lazear. “But I’ve never heard of anything so public.” Another agent termed the action “very scary.”
These developments have a ripple effect. For instance, the famous book store chain Borders has been “teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for months.” And the broader state of the publishing and print industry is not good to say the least:
Since these revelations, the news from the industry has grown increasingly bleak: San Francisco-based Chronicle Books announced that it will be cutting back almost 5 percent of its staff due to the outlook for 2009. Macmillan has announced a pay freeze for staff earning $50,000 and over, and the establishment of a pool to provide for modest increases for those earning less. Simon & Schuster announced the elimination of 35 jobs, and Thomas Nelson slashed 54 positions.
As some analysts have suggested, we are not just in a recession. We might be entering a Depression of world historical proportions….