Monthly Archives: January 2007

Why While Book Publishing Will Change, Books Are Part of Who We Are

There was a piece in the Sunday New York Times a while back, written by John Updike, the well known author, on the End of Authorship. The end of authorship? In the article he explains that the old time independent bookseller is on the way out, and that the author has now become another marketer. He is saddened and dismayed by these cultural changes.

But aren’t we just predicting the decline of civilization over the loss of the horse and buggy in favor of the automobile? It isn’t like people stopped going out and seeing each other – they now could venture farther and more comfortably.

I think in 20 years, we will see this period in the history of the book the same way. I don’t think books will vanish any time soon, but certain types of material that have traditionally been in book form have found a more natural home on the computer.

The thing that still is in the process of being sorted out is how people will continue to paid for new ideas that they put on paper. But Mr. Updike and a few others aside, few become authors for the money – there just isn’t that kind of money in it.

Publishing companies as we know them will cease to exist. Most of the large ones have already been purchased by media conglomerates, and this will continue. This is not a bad thing. Publishers have had their own reasons for what they chose to publish, and it hasn’t always suited what is good and what would be most worth our time reading.

The biggest breakthrough for authors has been Amazon.com, a tremendous leveler of the playing field. The power is changing from the publisher back to the author, and it remains to be seen how individual authors can best take advantage of the changes.

When you read a book, you narrow the space between you and the author. You are engaged in an intimate conversation. In the case of the nonfiction book, the reader needs the writer. The reader is in pain, or on a quest, or hoping to discover a nugget that will change his or her life.

That intimate conversation is the key element of why we love books – and we will continue to want, need, and reward the conversation, in whatever form it takes place.

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