The Shiny New Future of Publishing
While I do not forget big-box stores' ruthless and myopic elimination of independent bookstore competition over the years (good ol' American capitalism, right?), I don't applaud the demise of any bookstore, even the big-box versions. And if you're a fan of anything that's written or drawn in published form, then you should pay attention to what's happening right now, because it's going to affect you, even if you're really happy right now with your Shiny New Future. And in fact, it already is affecting you, even if you don't realize it.
New York Times' David Streitfeld, in a recent report on ebooks: “The triumph of e-books over their physical brethren is not happening quite as fast as forecast.” Streitfeld floated the idea that this may be due to the “counterintuitive possibility … that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order.”
Result, according to Melville House's Johnson? "The closing of bookstores selling PRINT books may also be hurting the sale of EBOOKS."
Ding-ding-ding. Hi, folks -- that's Reality ringing your cultural doorbell.
My take: Culture is an ecosystem. Think balance. Think beyond the length of your own arm. Our current Shiny New Future of Publishing is built for short-term gratification, and long-term 'scorched earth' (borrowing Johnson's phrase). I think we can do better than that. We NEED to do better than that.
I offer this to anyone reading this -- you're not in charge of 'saving Barnes and Noble' or 'saving publishing' or 'saving culture'. That's missing the point. It's the wrong way to frame these events. You ARE in charge of deciding what kind of culture you want, and leaving a world of better choices than the one you were given. In publishing and in reading culture, we're not doing such a hot job lately. Stop choosing convenience over culture, people. You can have both, but when you choose the former exclusively over the latter, you lose. Ebooks are NOT the devil, but ignorance sure is.