(Today is another Insecure Writer's Support Group with Alex J. Cavanaugh! Wander over and check out the wonderful posts, share your insecurities and get encouragement. Me? I suppose, in light of what I'm posting on today, I'd say my biggest insecurity right now is learning to navigate the changing world of publishing.)
Yep, another cheesy title that plays on the first letter of the day of the week. Hey, it helps the brain remember what it needs to writer about :D
I got to thinking (frightening, I know): I'm taking these writing classes so why not share some of the things I'm learning? Not to mention I've got LOADS of questions to ask you guys as well. Especially in my current class.
The title of the class is Context of Writing. What it revolves around is something on the mind of ever writer, published or not: the current state and future of the publishing industry. I spent an hour yesterday reading the first chapter of Jason Epstein's book "Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future". It was written in 2001, but it so far appears to have a good handle on the issues of today.
Epstein has been in the publishing industry since the 1950s so I'd wager he knows what he's talking about. The Preface and first chapter talk of the grand old days of publishing, when Dr. Seuss would just show up at Random House and chat with the editors and publishers and W.H. Auden would wander in with another draft. He goes from that to now, where authors work through agents and if they were to show up unannounced and actually make it past the security on the ground floor of the building, they would be thrown out faster than you could say "three book deal". He talks of e-books and the changing landscape of bookstores.
And you know what? I'm encouraged. That is not to say that I think it would be great if we could make appointments with publishers and speak to them face-to-face without the threat of a security guard flinging us onto the pavement in front of Scholastic. I have been very skeptical (and frankly annoyed) at e-books. Bookstores are Mecca for me and the thought of them all closing in favor of a handheld screen seems to me a dark dystopian future indeed.
Epstein said this that stuck with me: "Nonetheless, a civilization without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented super-stores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines...with coffee bars...."
He proposes that the big chain bookstores are struggling to compete with e-books. I agree. E-books are convenient and may offer more advantages to authors than traditional publishing. BUT with the lessening of big chain stores, there is a possibility that the independent bookstores could see new life. This is, of course, my opinion, but one I wanted to put out there for whatever it's worth.
I leave you with this: Do you think that the advent of e-books could be a renaissance of independent bookstores?