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Book publishing, distribution and retailing will soon be zeroed out?

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Newton's own copy of his Principia, with hand-...

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James Gleick, who has written about Chaos Theory, Richard Feynmann and Isaac Newton among other titles, ends a piece in the NY Times, which is facing its own financial Waterloo by next May, thusly:

It also means that much of the book world is being upended before our eyes: the business of publishing, selling and distributing books; the role of libraries and bookstores; all uses of books for research, consultation, information storage; everything, in fact, but the plain act of reading a book from start to finish.

In bookstores, the trend for a decade or more has been toward shorter shelf life. Books have had to sell fast or move aside. Now even modest titles have been granted a gift of unlimited longevity.

What should an old-fashioned book publisher do with this gift? Forget about cost-cutting and the mass market. Don’t aim for instant blockbuster successes. You won’t win on quick distribution, and you won’t win on price. Cyberspace has that covered.

Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it.

I, for one, love books, their physical form, their covers, their printedness and ubiquity. I will always, until I die, cherish books, but I take Gleick’s message seriously and so should Borders and such.

At this moment, I have trouble with my vision of book clubs in the near future, some for members with wireless connection to Google Books and others for those who can’t afford or dislike the all things electronic and there will be that kind of book lover as far into the future as I can foresee!

Maybe the old rule of “Plus ca change, plus c’est la mème chose!!” will apply as much as ever.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/11/30 at 06:36

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