However, my understanding of the situation is as follows:
The publishing industry can been seen to have three elements - writers, publishers and sales outlets.
The writers are producing novels. More novels than ever before. I'm an example of this. I would not have been able to attempt to write a novel if it hadn't been for the advent of the word processor. My dyslexia would have been too great a barrier. I may be an extreme case, but I recon other people have been enabled by technology in similar ways.
Contrary to popular belief, the publishers are producing more titles a year now than they used to. I've failed to come up with detailed statistics for the last couple of years, but from what I read the trend seems to be growth.
What has happened to buying patterns since the end of the Net Book Agreement? I sketched the following 2 graphs to illustrate what I believe the change to have been. They are not based on any real data. Rather they illustrate a change in pattern that corresponds to what I have been told is happening.
The x-axis on these graphs represents all the books published in the year, from the #1 best seller on the right, all the way down to the 10,000th seller on the left. The y axis represents money made by each title. Thus, the best selling book made lots of money and the worst selling book made little.
Here we have a picture of the market during the prime of the Net Book agreement:
And here we have a picture of the market now:
The total number of books being published is dazzlingly large. But the number of books being sold in any volume has reduced. (I understand the value of the market in total is not growing or shrinking at present.)
The big sellers are selling more and being promoted more. The small sellers are selling less and being promoted less.
Now - with the arrival of the e-book - the number of novels being published each year is likely to increase at a huge rate.
My question is - how will a reader know what books are worth looking at? The top selling couple of hundred novels will be easy to identify. They are being promoted. They are given prominence in Waterstones, Tesco etc. But what of the rest - the mid-list and below? Here we have a huge expanse of publications in which the excellent has a problem making itself seen above the mass of frankly poor writing that is now finding its way into print.
This is my impression of what is happening. I have no real data to justify it and, as always, am open to being told I am wrong!