Sunday, January 4, 2009

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes" Mark Twain

The publishing world
is in scale down mode, near to lockdown. Editors and production people are loosing their jobs and major players are not accepting any manuscripts. I suspect this means manuscripts by lesser known authors than say Stephen King, which leaves 99% of authors in a funk.

It's important to remember that before there were big publishing houses with armies of skinny, young editors (all dressed in black mini skirts, black tights and black eyeliner), writers still got their words into the hands of readers. Mark Twain, among many others, sold his books in advance by subscription, eschewing the elite Eastern literati, who after snubbing him still are amazingly enough in control of the market today, almost two hundred years later. These gatekeepers are instructed with formulas for publishing success -- formulas that grant people like Sarah Palin $7Million advances. Any entity that publishes a book ghost written and published inside of six weeks by a guy called Joe the Plumber who is neither named Joe or a plumber doesn't really care about books or even trees for that matter and as far as I'm concerned, deserves to go out of business.

Hugh McQuire in his recent blog: What if the book business collapses points out that maybe the implosion the pubishing industry is experiencing is not all bad. I tend to agree with him. The whole trend toward mega publishers and mega bookstores that allot precious little space for experimental or quirky is scary. Not only does it make my teeth itch, it is bad business since us word consumers have spent the last decade getting all finicky about our entertainment tastes. It's hard to even remember those pre-remote control days when 90% of TV sets were tuned in on Monday nights to the same I Love Lucy episode -- we've diversified as consumers just as the burdens of big publishing sought to support itself on a narrowing field of blockbusters.

Facebook tells me what my relatives are up to and I care a whole lot more about them than celebrity news. Blogs keep me up-to-date on my friends' opinions, which are more important to me than ANYthing Andy Rooney ever focused a biased eye on. I read the news outlets I want to read blissfully ignoring what's on Fox. I download only the songs I want instead of buying an entire album and Amazon tells me what books I'll like based on what I've ordered in the past -- kind of like those old-fashioned, user friendly bookstore owners who found themselves displaced by Clay Akins and expresso machines in the nineties.

If I really like something -- I subscribe to it online, a system that kind of rhymes with Mark Twain.


Greg said...

well said. i don't want to see book publishing suffer, but maybe it is time for the bubble to burst and something to change.

Pressin On said...

many people, my family included buy their books at Borders, or Amazon. they say it is too good a deal to pass up. why pay more? and they told me these things even while i worked for 7 yrs at an indy store known for special ordering any title.

6 months ago i broke my own code, and purchased a dehumidifyer at Wal-Mart. i cld not justify paying 45 dollars more at my local, small hardware store.

look at jazz---it is easy to find a Louis Armstrong Best Of CD for like 9bucks, or even much less. but any new talent, and you are lookin at 16-18 dollars, to try it. isnt it safer to stick with the classics, the ones you know u'll love?

people will spend 20 bucks to see a movie and fill their stomachs with corn syrup and caffeine. but the same people go to booksignings and readings and leave without spending a cent.

do we need to bail out the book industry?


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau