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ENTRY

2008 misc. (good news, bad news)
January 1, 2009

There wasn't a lot of good news in publishing in 2008. As I mentioned before, the economy tanked dragging the publishing world with it. Publisher layoffs and freezes, slowing or stopping of new book acceptances, bookstore closings or cutbacks. Really depressing. I live on a small island in the Pacific and while there's a nice independent second-hand bookstore, the only new book store is a Borders. I spend a lot of time there (and in the attached Starbucks). If it closed (and they are closing stores, both Borders and 'bucks), I'd really be in a funk.

Of course as much as the publishing world is a victim of circumstances, it occasionally shoots itself in the foot. Faked and plagiarized books get discovered with some regularity. The latest being the "true" story of the Nazi concentration camp survivor who happens to meet and marry the woman who threw food over the fence to him so he could survive. Yikes, didn't anyone think that was too good and coincidental to be true?

And there weren't many (any?) great books in '08. During the whole year I spent only about two hundred dollars on books and most of those were reference or non-fiction books, not novels. That's probably half what I usually spend. Maybe I'm getting choosier, or maybe I'm just not excited by the current crop of novels. I do admit to a rather eclectic taste in fiction.

There were a few deaths during the year, the most tragic was David Foster Wallace. The post-modern genius author of Infinite Jest committed suicide apparently after suffering depression. Michael Crichton went to the Jurassic Park in the sky or wherever writers' heaven is. As I write this entry I've just heard about the passing of Donald E. Westlake.

While the standard publisher-distributor-bookstore-consumer model of publishing was going fallow, internet sales and e-books were gaining. By internet selling I'm not referring to buying new books on Amazon, I'm talking about the consumer-consumer model of selling new, nearly-new, and used books. Selling sites like e-Bay and others, or even the lone person clearing out a closet, offer books for a few bucks or even a few cents (plus shipping). It's the wired equivalent of the garage/yard sale. And after an over-hyped initial excitement about e-books, there seems to be real momentum and acceptance of the digital book. Improved device-readers like Kindle, plus a general familiarity of reading on a screen seem to have turned the tide.

As a writer, I'm happy to see both the consumer-consumer and e-book sales increasing and reaching a critical mass of users. Yes, consumer-consumer sales don't result in any direct coin in my pocket (nor in the publishers). But to have anyone go out of their way to buy one of my books, even if it's for a quarter (plus shipping), is kind of cool. I hope it builds a deeper reader base for future sales. And e-book sales are very cool because they do put coin in my pocket. Even now I get royalty checks twice a year for e-books sales of The Fourth Treasure, long out of print. Admittedly the checks aren't huge, but for a book out of print to still be generating sales is heartening for a writer. I think e-books will replace the paperback as the secondary publication after the hardback version of a book.

Will there ever be the end of real, hold-in-the-hand, paper-based books? I doubt it. But fewer are going to be printed. That?s a fact.

Happy New Year, and happy writing and reading.

#

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 3
click here to add a comment

Jo Reed
I didn't find a GREAT new book this year, read maybe thirty, mostly okay, not great.

Lee Witte
time to write a great one then, Jo

Jo Reed
Sure, will do

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