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The Age Of Streaming

By Mathilde Sire and Annie Jay

Big Little Lies, Bridgerton, The Queen’s Gambit, Game of Thrones… Unless you have been living under a rock for the last five years, you will have heard of at least one of these incredibly popular TV series. What you might have missed is that they are all adaptations of book series. While some of them were already well-known in the reading world, most of these books have received a huge boost in sales since the release of their TV shows on different streaming platforms. Giants of streaming like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, influence the publishing industry in more than one way.

Streaming Platforms’ Impact On Book Sales

Having your book adapted into a TV series can have a lot of advantages, especially for sales and market awareness. For example, the sales of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and particularly volume one, The Duke and I, have sky-rocketed since its release on Netflix at the end of 2020. Quinn’s editor, Lyssa Keush, told People, "These books have been beloved since their original publication, and we expected there would be renewed interest in them, but I don't think anyone anticipated this level of response.” At the time of its release in 2000, The Duke and I spent three weeks on the New York Times Extended Bestseller list. Twenty-one years later, it was number one for four consecutive weeks. This phenomenon is explained partly by the number of Netflix subscribers: 207.64 million as of the first quarter of 2021. Such a worldwide audience is the dream of all authors and editors. Although streaming platforms do not limit themselves to TV series adaptations, there is a clear trend as films do not allow as much character development and exploration as series do. There is a steep decline of literary adaptations in films since 2018.

Netflix’s Influence On Book Writing

Netflix, being one of the biggest streaming platforms worldwide, has managed to be an important marketing tool for publishing houses. However, this is not a coincidence – according to The Bookseller, Netflix is actively searching for literary works that can be turned into an original series. Sagas are the main priority and preferences due to the nature of TV series. Some of today’s authors and publishers are also trying to stick to guidelines or a certain theme to call the attention of streaming platforms. The creative executives of Netflix began to understand, thanks to Kelly Lugenbiehl, a Netflix producer, that a book has so many events, details and characters to be described, it would be difficult and sad to reduce everything down to one film; a TV series would be more adequate. Due to the success of such adaptations, writing sagas is a trend for both authors and publishers. Publishing houses, authors and streaming platforms are thriving and bouncing off each other for content.

Disadvantages Of Streaming Platforms

Despite the accidental marketing strategy that works for publishers thanks to these TV series, there is also a disadvantage. Of course, there are Netflix subscribers who will decide to buy the books after watching the series; however, there will also be subscribers who will think “Why buy and read the book when I can just watch the series?” Maybe the problem is not that people can watch the screen adaptation instead of reading the book, but instead they can easily stop watching a show if they are not enjoying it. The difference between a streaming platform and a book is that to read a book, you must buy it, whereas when it comes to using a streaming platform, you have everything at the click of your fingers for the same monthly price. What does this mean for the publishing industry? Although there are subscription platforms for reading, such as Kindle Unlimited, it is possible that publishing houses will have to look more into the subscription market within the near future. Every situation has its ups and downs: Netflix advertises books due to its screen adaptations, but at the same time, it may push publishers to further consider the well-known subscription market.

Truly, the publishing industry continues to be heavily influenced by popular streaming platforms. Though it has a mostly positive impact on marketing and publicity departments, it encourages authors and publishers to fit the Netflix mould and therefore stifle creativity. It is also unclear how much a book being adapted into a TV series encourages people to read more. Rather, it might steer the public away from the original literature, especially those who are not keen readers. It may be essential for publishers to find new ways of profiting from Netflix’s power so that it benefits the entire publishing industry and leaves creative freedom for their authors.


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