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Printed books and their stores endangered

Interesting segment on The Colbert Report tonight. Sherman Alexie, author of the recently released War Dances, was talking about the plight of authors and books today.

Alexie mentioned that he would not allow his book to be released in digital form. Why? Because it’s too likely to be pirated, something he says is happening a lot now to best-selling authors, and costing them a lot of potential sales. Yet another reason to preserve “real” printed books, and one I hadn’t even considered in some of my recent conversations about books.

He spoke of arriving in New York for a recent book tour and noticing how things had changed. There are far fewer of the cozy little privately owned neighborhood bookstores, the kind, he said, that helped bring a neighborhood together. That trend I have been painfully aware of, watching as one little bookstore after another gets driven out of businees by the national chains, Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton. The little guys didn’t get any less friendly or cozy; they just couldn’t compete financially with the giants.

At least I have high hopes for the books I bought for my granddaughter for Christmas — a couple of those recordable Hallmark books that are being advertised on TV. She’ll be getting “The Night Before Christmas” in the next week or so, so she can enjoy it during the run up to Christmas. I’m hoping she’ll think having my recorded voice reading each page to her will be a neat thing. I think it’s neat! I Bought a second title, a nonseasonal story, that will work the rest of the year. I hope she likes them, or it will have been a somewhat extravagant mistake.

Buying for the grandson is much tougher. He’s not into books much anyway, but I could probably hook him with some good sports stories. There are a lot of sports stories out there, but the majority of those I found for his age last year were pathetic little paperback pamphlets with very few illustrations. A real book would be bigger, hardcover, and beautfully illustrated. The production values on the paperbacks suck. They don’t even look like anything I’d want to read. A kid would have to be an avid reader to tackle one of them, and my grandson is not. He’s all about soccer and video games.

What do I do to support the book industry? Not much anymore, I’m afraid. I used to buy and collect tons of books and read constantly, but that was a long time ago. The required reading and study in college cut into my free reading time. And then my work required intense, close reading all day. Reading for pleasure sort of fell by the wayside. The appreciation was still there. It’s just that my days were spent reading and producing books and journals. By evening, I didn’t have any eyes left to read and enjoy them.

1 Comment »

  1. I hear you there, boy howdy. In fact, I just started reading books again for pleasure, now that I’m concentrating on writing only. When I was editing a lot, I couldn’t come home and read more. My brain would just shut down. Writing–or, writing sporadically in the wonderful, decimated world of journalism–doesn’t give me that problem.
    _________
    My brain worked okay. But my eyes just didn’t want to peer closely at printed pages anymore, and if I forced them, I found myself mentally editing and proofing the pages rather than enjoying the narrative. These days it’s more a matter of eyes being tired from staring at a glaring computer screen too long, aggravating already old, tired, dry eyes.

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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