it’s a monday morning and i usually start my monday mornings clicking over to publishers weekly’s website. this morning, there was a very thought-provoking article written by rudy shur entitled, “The Light At the End of The Publishing Tunnel? On Finding Fans, Not Formats .”
it recounted a short discussion between rudy (publisher of square one publishers) and his sales director, ken. rudy mentioned the increase in sales of e-books and the decline of sales of traditional books. ken replies, “Format is really not the problem.” now, if i were in the room, i would have replied, “why, ken, whatever do you mean?” so let’s pretend i was and that i said that.
ken replies something to the effect of, “the question isn’t which format the reader will choose . . . but if there will be readers in the first place.”
yikes! do not speak it. the article goes on to recount the glorious age of reading, the 50s through the 80s. returning vets, poor people, baby boomers, we all enjoyed reading just for the pleasure of it. but then…
the 90s came and with it . . . the computer. that dang-blasted marvel of innovation and technology. and we (americans) became a nation of the entertained. do we no longer see reading as a form of entertainment? well, newspapers think so (okay, newspaper websites but what do THEY know?) some newspapers have book reviews (IF they have book reviews) in the entertainment section, some in the arts & living section (does that make it high-brow?), and some (one?) (thank you new york times) have their own, standalone book review. and while some newspapers are getting rid of their standalone book reviews (boooooo washington post and los angeles times), the wall street journal is CREATING one! (i don’t find many reasons to cheer rupert murdoch but this is one of them! woohoo!)
my original question was going to be…who is to blame for the state of the book? but i don’t like the word blame. but then what ARE the questions we should be asking: why aren’t we reading for pleasure anymore? who says we aren’t? are we not buying what we’re reading? are we getting our reading material online so no one can see? are we reading different stuff? does reading anything other than a book count when ‘they’ say we’re not reading anymore?
i will remind you of this article from 2008, published in the Atlantic magazine: “is google making us stupid?” the article asks if reading on the internet has changed the way people read – short and sweet vs. long and in-depth. i didn’t finish it – it’s reeeeealllly looooooong. (just kidding).
maybe this is contributing to the state of the book. blame google. blame al gore. after all, he created the internet. 🙂
amazon just introduced a concept called amazon singles. wired magazine’s headline: amazon launches kindle singles, saves long-form journalism. but does that mean that we don’t have the attention-span to get through a few hundred pages of a book anymore? 30,000 words and we’re mentally exhausted? are you tuckered out already just reading this blog post? oh, no! have you caught it too? the reading malaise? do not go gentle…
never, ever, ever, give up. read into the night. into the early twilight. into the dawn. into infinity, and beyond…
the conclusion: the state of the book is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
happy reading…no matter the format!