There’s something super stinky and equally scary about this article in the Times today. Apparently, the entire vertical marketing chain of publishing and purchasing of books is collapsing. Publishers aren’t taking manuscripts, and retail bookstores aren’t doing well. As a writer and learner, this is very disturbing.
First, bookstores. I love bookstores, but honestly, when I go in to browse, I rarely buy. Why? Well, first there are things called libraries where people can borrow books for free. Secondly, the bookstore rarely has what I’m looking for in stock. Why would I special order it to have it arrive at the store when I can stay home in my jammies and order the book online at Amazon.com without wasting fossil fuels? Exceptions to the retail (first hand) bookstores may very well be the second hand bookstores, which I am also a fan of as a reader. However, as a writer, it is a little bit of a challenge to watch your own hard work get resold at half price (and zero profit for the author). Although, the recycler in me loves that books can be recycled rather than being tossed or gathering dust on someone’s shelves.
To the most disturbing portion of this article: the publishers no longer taking manuscripts. Books contain ideas: without new books, we can’t really have shared or new ideas, and that is the horror of this entire collapse. If people stop reading, we, according to Thomas Friedman (see Hot, Flat & Crowded), are just pouring gasoline on the ‘dumb as we wanna be’ fire that is already blazing and out of control in the US.
Don’t give up on books. Resolve to get them back into your life in the new year, in order to save all of us and create solutions to get us out of the mess we are already in.