Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Endangerment, Extinction

As an editor, I'm of course concerned about the publishing industry caving in on itself, gutting its own support beams in its mad rush to digital products that cannot sustain labor that is thoughtful, wide-ranging, with workers trying to be prescient, trying to work with authors on deep and thorough investigations, both the creative, artistic kind and the scholarly kind, and sometimes both. Sure it worries me when I read most recently this news:
Physical book sales will decline at a compound annual rate of 5 percent. While e-book sales will rise during that same period, the increase won’t cover the revenue gap created by the decline in the physical book market. By 2014, the research note predicts, e-books will occupy some 13 percent of U.S. book publishing revenue, more than twice its current level.
That blows. But even before I read this, I read something else that very well may come to an end in this ever-changing publishing landscape, where print books are increasingly devalued.
Ever since 1983, when one of the earliest book cart drill teams formed in Virginia, teams have been sprouting up at libraries across the country, rehearsing synchronized routines and making occasional appearances at conferences, festivals, and parades.
Yeah, that's right. Librarians doing choreographed dance routines with book carts. Try doing THAT with your fancy e-books, Cory Doctorow!

What else will we lose before we put the brakes on this digitizing nightmare, I ask you?
But keeping the spirit of book cart-pushing performance alive has been no easy task. Recruitment and education are key. Deyermond concedes that the past two years have been tough. When there weren’t enough teams to field a real contest last year, she held a tutorial session instead.
That's Gerry Deyermond, whom you may know betters as "the book cart queen," sounding the alarm. This is how (print) books may go: not with a bang but a whimper, from a lonely librarian standing - or even slow-dancing - with an empty book cart.

1 comment:

Raymond McInnis said...

Physically, books are -- in their own right -- works of art, something that never will be equaled by their digitized cousins. Moreover, reading an actual book has several advantages over its digitized cousin, just as reading a digitized book has its advantages over its paper cousin. In other words, books -- paper and digital -- will learn to live together. For the physical book, "publication on demand" will become a larger issue, whether new books or reprints of old books.

As truisms, maybe my comments are not very profound, but -- on the other hand -- any attempt toward blocking the inevitable onslaught of digital publishing -- including the parodying of book cart choreography -- smacks too much of a "quixotic" presumptuousness.

Incidentally, in today's post, check the font in the first inset quote, because it looks different than the other two below, and there is a typo in one of the lower paragraphs.