Friday, January 27, 2006

A sterling suggestion ...

... from Steve Clackson at Sand Storm: Talk up your blog favorites. Actually, Steve is on a roll, linking to Falling out of print is a book's natural fate at Boing Boing, and alerting us to the Grumpy Old Bookman in paperback.

Postscript: In 1997, I wrote a piece about how the internet was revolutionizing the used-book business. In it I cited a figure from Interloc -- the predecessor, I believe, of Alibris -- indicating that 99 percent of all the books in the world are out of print.
That says something, obviously, about the economics of publishing. But the publishing industry is to a large extent its own worst enemy -- as is the newspaper industry. The preoccupation of both with the legendary bottom line reminds one of nothing so much as a couple of bespectacled wimps trying to show the world how tough they are. "We're hard-nosed business guys, out to make a profit just like everybody else," they growl to all and sundry. Well, I have news for them:They're not in the business of making money. I read something once -- I don't remember what or where -- to the effect that money is only a by-product of business. It's what comes of manufacturing a product or providing a service that people want badly enough to pay for in sufficient quantity to make said manufacture or production a going venture. If the publishing industry and the newspaper business devoted their energies to putting out first-class products, they'd have plenty of customers and would make plenty of money.

1 comment:

  1. One thing the Frey mess and similar messes (Nasdijj, Burroughs) show is that the traditional and all-but "official" gatekeepers of publishing -- agents and editors -- have become not very good at deciding what should be published and how. Which raises the question, Why, then, should they be the gatekeepers? It also, by extension, raises the possibility that works published by other means -- self-published, tiny presses, etc. -- may not be as bad as they are assumed to be, simply because they have not gone through the "official" gatekeeping process. In fact -- guess what? -- they may even be good!
    These messes show, actually, an even greater thing: That, incredibly, we have lost our compass about what is truth, what is real, what is actual -- not just in publishing, but in Washington and in other venues of politics and national policy. When we can say that one thing is another, we have lost that compass. Or when we can say that something is not as it was advertised or proclaimed or promised, but that it doesn't matter, we have lost that compass. Orwellian is a word too easily, and usually wrongly, tossed about, but, really, here we are entering the Land of War-Is-Peace.