Wednesday, June 08, 2005

a storm blows in

A storm blows in and wakes me up in the middle of the night. So I do what I do best at 4:00 a.m. -- I worry.

For the past week, articles I’ve read and people I’ve talked to are indicating that publishers and booksellers are finally admitting that the downturn in book sales might not be part of a cycle but a shift in how readers are reading and buying and getting information.

Thank you. You can’t address a problem if you don’t admit it exists.

One thing I’ve actually admired about the book biz is that it doesn’t try to be cool. But more and more I’ve come to realize that’s also part of its problem. Movies are all about cool. Music is all about cool. The closest publishing gets to cool is when it publishes books about cool movies or cool music. And those cool kids who used to hang out in the school hallways wearing cool clothes and doing cool things? They now hang out in internet hallways. That hallway now has no walls, and this new world building is having enormous impact. Those small groups of people who all do the same things, listen to the same things, read the same things, watch the same things, are now enormous groups of people looking for what’s cool and individual and different so they can all do it together.

Shallow? Yes. Honest? Yes. Because trying to be James Dean is a part of our genes. I’ll bet Jesus would have emulated Dean if Dean had been around back then.

Most publishers are trend-followers. This can be bad in a world of big wheels turning slowly. By the time a trend is recognized, pointed at, discussed, paid homage to, printed, and sold to the consumer, it’s usually on its way out.

Publishers are going to have to take risks. A hard thing to do when sales are down. And by risks, I don’t mean finding the next somebody who writes like fillintheblank. Right now, the worst thing a writer or musician can be is someone who doesn’t sound like anybody else. Does that make sense????

5:00 a.m. Storm is over. Birds are singing. Oh, wait. They aren’t singing; they’re whistling in the dark.


weeza said...

The book industry will never die, of that I am sure. There is a certain feel that audiobooks and downloads just can't match, a mystery within the pages that is lost in other mediums.
there is no more serene feeling for me then to walk into a bookstore, and see all the possbilities laid before me.
Books lure you in, downl;oads are convienient, but eye straining.
Take heart, your art is not lost. As long as lattes are sold, books will be bought. If that changes, i hope someone will put me out of my misery...

Jeff said...

Could the drop in book sales have anything to do with our changng culture? Sadly, we are becoming a nation of lazy, impatient, hurry up, fast food imbeciles. It takes time to read a good novel. Why spend a few days turning pages when you can be fed an entire story in only two hours on the big screen or at home on DVD? No imagination required. It must be my day to bitch.:)
Blog Moral(if there is such a thing): Turn off the sitcoms, unplug from the computer, pick up a novel with a good story and your beverage of choice, and have a great evening!

anne frasier said...

jeff, i completely agree. i think the change in our culture has a lot to do with the drop in sales. several other things come into play, but that's the big one. within the past few years, booksellers have even seen a big shift in the way people buy books. not nearly as many people browsing, and more people buying only books that are being heavily backed, reviewed, and advertised. they are much more willing to let other people make their choices for them. we are now looking at generations of passive viewers who don't participate. that's been my chronic bitch about so many aspects of life now. but i'll be good and not mention politics. :D