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Are the books in your local B&N all hiding behind a big Nook booth?

If you’re not a bookseller or a publisher or an author involved right now in the contortionist’s dance of promoting your own novel, then you may not know that commercial book culture is embroiled in a donnybrook. (Is that a mixed metaphor? Is it two mixed metaphors?)

Okay, these are are all pretty much inside-baseball articles, but I want to link anyway to a post by Chicago bookseller Jeff Waxman called “Notes from the Brouhaha”. I do this as an excuse to type “brouhaha” (which is almost as much fun as saying it out loud). And I do it in the hope that a good many folks out there might be interested in pondering the health and future of book culture as a whole. More specifically, I do it because in the middle of paragraph six, Waxman writes this: “When you pay less for a book, you will ultimately be left with less.”

His post is actually about the implications of Amazon's sponsoring the Best Translated Book Award this year. But his musings take him right to the real point—at least as far as literary novel lovers are concerned.

Pondering which books we buy and how we buy them is an ongoing, but worthy, exercise when we see what happens these days to novels that are not expected to become blockbusters—and what seems now to be the path for authors of more quiet works. How do we find those important authors now? By looking farther. And when we find them. . . .

I'm rooting for the moment when the love of reading raises the cultural value of all the great books to be found at the center of the store. When that happens we'll all be left with more.


Joni Rodgers said…
I get what Waxman is saying, but I sighed a deep sigh when I first read about that translation award flap. Between Chad and Dennis. Maybe they'll settle it with a chess deathmatch out on the quad. Loser buys the Boone's Farm! Instead of girl-slapping at Amazon when they try to do something good, maybe we should use that energy to fight the BAD things they do -- like selling used books and auto-posting unfair reviews -- which truly materially damage us.

All that aside, you're right that as book prices go down, so goes the value of books in the minds of consumers. And that scares me.
It scares me too, as does the proliferation of self-published works/ebooks in the marketplace. I know that's a slightly different side of the discussion, but I just heard from a friend today that she was sending a work off. I pressed her for details, because the last I'd heard, she wasn't in any way ready to send out. Sure enough, she's chosen to send to a self publishing company, rather than going the traditional way. "What difference does it make if my work gets out there?" she says.


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