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Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008 11:09 am
Do the Holidays Make You Depressed, Too?
Posted by: Keir Graff

Bah, humbug! On Salon (“Read it and weep“), Jason Boog writes about “the end of days” for the publishing industry:

“There were hedge fund guys with no background in publishing buying up publishing houses,” says André Schiffrin, founder of the New Press and author of “The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read.” He explains that corporate owners of major publishing houses expected impossible 15 to 20 percent profit margins in an industry with traditional margins of 3 to 4 percent. “They were part of that whole feeling that you could make money by buying and selling companies, rather than by selling books. At some point it comes to a dead end.”

He ends, however, on a modestly hopeful note, suggesting that small presses may still thrive, and asking, “Can the publishing world channel all of this collective anger, bewilderment and fear into industry-altering strategies?”

Rest In Peace. On Holt Uncensored (“Three Things I’d Like to See #3“), Pat Holt holds a wake for the dearly departed–editors:

I think the saddest thing that ever happened in the book industry was the gradual devaluing of editors and all they stand for – their high standards, their belief in readers, their ability to nurture authors, their love of language, their patience, their dedication, their eye.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Leaving Literature Behind“), Bruce Fleming writes that the teaching of literature is killing the love of reading. 

Students get something out of a book by reading it. Love of reading was, after all, what got most of us into this business to begin with. We are killing that experience with the discipline of literary studies, with its network of relations in which an individual work almost becomes incidental. But it’s the individual work that changes lives.

(If you read the whole essay–and you should, it’s a powerful manifesto–let me just be absolutely clear that I am not related to Gerald Graff.)

Happy New Year! In the Guardian (“Here’s to the future of the book“), Robert McCrum asks, “Are the print media facing the end of the world?” He doesn’t think so:

2009 may well be tough for the messengers (publishers, booksellers, newspaper distributors etc) but the message will surely survive, whatever the economic climate. It might even flourish as the adverse market conditions purge the system of non-books (ghosted celebrity memoirs; chick lit; novelty volumes and sporting biographies).

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