Monday, September 5, 2011

Darwinian Publishing Rules

The super bookstore has undergone significant changes over the last 15 years, adding cafes, selling non-book items such as puzzles, music, DVDs, games and greeting cards.  But at the core of the bookstore is still the book.  Not too far in the distant future we will see more kiosks in stores where people can print a new book in a matter of minutes.  We’ll also see them sell used books at a discount.  Books will be sold in other languages or forms.  Just tell the machine what language to translate the book into and presto!  Same goes with audio books.  You’ll be able to download an audio version of the book to your iPad if you choose to.  You probably will also be able to build a book of your preference where you can pick and choose sections of the book that you want, or maybe you can choose an illustrated version that includes photos or drawings or color pages.  Whatever technology makes possible inevitably will end up in bookstores – unless that technology replaces stores or even books as we know them.

Perish the thought.

But if we’ve learned two things from Darwin it is that evolution happens naturally, forever, and it will eventually change something into a whole other property so as to make it nearly unrecognizable to the original.  Life is survival of the fittest, and this too is especially true when it comes to commerce.  Books, as hard to imagine, will eventually disappear and bookstores will vanish eventually as well.  The question is; How long will this take to happen?  Hopefully in my lifetime I won’t see books go the way of steam engines, typewriters, black and white TV, and automats.  But if evolution theory is to hold true, books will cease to be produced the way they currently are, at some point. 

This concerns me.

No one wants to see what they grew up valuing become a useless relic. No one who loves books can imagine something better replacing them. Books represent information, ideas and imagination.  Without books, won’t we lose these things? I enjoy the smell, the touch, the look of a book. I love cover art. I love the paper’s texture.  I love the fact I hold an adventure or one’s life’s work in my hands, ready to be devoured.

But I also realize e-books aren’t all bad, that perhaps we’ll see some positives with the new book that comes to us electronically.  For one, it seems e-books allow for;

·        Instant access anywhere – no wait for “shipping,” no trip to the store. You can download a book at 3 am Sunday from bed or on a bus halfway around the world.
·        Lower prices than books that get printed, returned, wholesaled.
·        The length of a book will vary more – you may see as many 20,000-word books as you will 200,000 ones – rather than the standard 80,000.
·        Faster publishing cycles.  You don’t have to wait six months for a book to be released.  It can be sold immediately.
·        Greater experimentation of content.  Since no one risks much by issuing an e-book (saving on print costs, warehousing, shipping), publishers will be more willing to take a chance.  But they will need page designers, editing and indexing, so some investment is still needed.
·        More people to self-publish, and eliminate middlemen – less need to pay a lit agent, getting only a publisher royalty, having to deal with returns and huge wholesaler discounts.

I am rooting for coexistence, between paper and e-books. But I know that if Darwinian theory takes hold, e-books will replace paper and something else will replace e-books.

Book Review: English Idioms And Expressions For Everyone, Yes, Even You!

Reza Mashayekhi, who was born and raised in Iran but later attended the University of Michigan, collected well over two thousand idioms and expressions for his new book. He initially thought foreigners, such as himself, would find it an invaluable guide to communicating in America. But he realizes that many people of all ages and levels of education can also benefit from his dictionary. You can read his book and consult for more information. Upon thumbing through his book I was reminded of how often we say things that, if taken literally, would make no sense – I am not pulling someone’s leg, but I may be off my rocker, and I most certainly am not trying to pull a fast one. It’s a very good guide for those who love the language – and also want to better understand it. (402 pages, paperback, $19.95, East To West Publications).

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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