The 2012 political season is in high gear with back-to-back conventions of the two major parties having just concluded. In between speeches and media speculation, the rhetoric rises on all sides. More than a billion dollars will be spent on the presidential election and a lot is at stake. To show the key positions of Democrats and Republicans, each party promotes a platform of official views, policies, and claims. I wonder if book publishing needs to create such a platform.
Whereas the DC wonks would espouse views on abortion, crime, education, jobs, immigration and significant issues of the day, a publishing platform would be created to address the values and goals of the book industry. I suspect authors would have their own platform, then another for booksellers, and another for book publishers. There is little unity amongst the three. In fact, often the needs and desires of each entity conflict with the other, even when it seems they should be in harmony.
What is important to each of these constituents? Authors want to be published, paid well, made famous, widely read, and treated like celebrities. They also hope their writing impacts society or individuals. They want to establish a legacy.
Bookstores want to sell books and make money. They may love books more than most stores love the product they sell and tend to look at their storefront as a missionary that services the community’s pursuit of knowledge. It is where literacy grows, minds young and old expand, and where the town gathers to interact with the literary world.
Publishers also want to sell books and make money. They may view books in a special way but they may also have ownership pressures (especially the conglomerates) to be profitable at the expense of putting out quality books. They support free speech and the exchange of ideas, but they are profit-driven, so sometimes the editorial is trumped by the commercial.
So what could a platform say that would collectively represent the interests of all those in publishing?
There should be a calling for the industry’s key members to find ways to work together and to promote not just a specific title, author, or company, but the entire notion that books are precious. You may think it is taken for granted that books can inspire and motivate, teach and educate, offer introductions to worlds new to readers, give voice to ideas and experiences previously not thought or heard of, and to exercise free speech, literacy, and liberty – but we need reminders of this, especially for the newest generation that is confronted with more choices than any other generation for mindshare – instant movie-blog-TV-game-book-Website-newspaper –magazine – music- radio awaits them at every click of every device.
We also need affirmation in the printed book, and in the protection of content with stronger enforcement of copyright laws. We need to promote smart readers so they can discern truth from fiction or opinion. We also need to promote the existence of more bookstores, especially ones that include informed customer service reps. And we need to rally around independent stores and competitors to Amazon for the digital market.
A lot could be contained in a book publishing platform. But no such thing exists. Perhaps, in your heart and mind – and in your purchasing patterns – you can live out such a platform. Encourage the growth and support all things books and leave nothing to chance. Do not assume someone else will champion books. It is up to you to be the voice of publishing.
What say you?
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.
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