Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Public Works Program Needed For Books

An Op-Ed in The Washington Post recently suggested that it’s time to maintain the art that was created by the New Deal during the Great Depression.  Much of the paintings and statues commissioned by the government back then – to stimulate the economy and create jobs – now needs to be repaired.

Some 70-80 years ago, the defunct Works Progress Administration funded not only 65,000 buildings and 46,000 bridges – and countless parks, dams, train stations, roadways, and housing developments – but 17,744 pieces of sculpture and 2,566 murals.

Maybe what we need is a public program committed to books and bookstores.  Society needs literate people and it needs to not only elevate its brightest but to give a lift to its poorest, dumbest, and least enlightened.  Our nation could be so much better with an informed citizenry.  I believe not only must it be filled with knowledge, but also fantasies and ideas.  Fiction and non-fiction books will be the building blocks of our society.  Books provide the people what other forms of content cannot.  Let’s support their development and circulation.

Let’s build more bookstores and expand libraries so they can truly service, in a convenient, comprehensive, and updated manner, all of us.

Let’s put money into making bookstores and libraries learning centers, where people can network, listen to authors, and gather to form giant book groups.

Let’s invest in preserving what bookstores and libraries have been and can be.  Sure it’s cheaper to just have everyone go online and find free content or low cost ebooks.  But the book community needs a physical representation – in the form of paper books and touch – the flesh gatherings in bookshelf-lined locations.

What could an annual investment of one billion dollars buy the book publishing industry?  Well, if a bookstore got assistance, say in the neighborhood of $100,000, you could help 10,000 stores.  If you double the government outlay, you could make 20,000 bookstores better.  That’s only 2 billion a year – chump change for a government with a trillion-and-a half-dollar annual expense report. 

So what would a bookstore do with the new-found cash?

·         It could hire more people to improve the bookstore experience.
·         It could help finance in-store events.
·         It could build more shelf space.
·         It can be used to market, promote, and advertise bookstores.
·         It can allow a store to refurbish or modernize a store.

Such changes will create jobs, increase book sales, and improve society.  We all win.

I can’t think of any reasons not to do this.  It’s a bailout, yes.  It’s a handout, sure.  Books and bookstores serve us – the government should help those who serve our needs.  Elevating the book industry is no different than investing in public works, such as construction projects.  I’d argue a book public works project is more important than those structures.

As stores become more profitable and show they can grow, the less likely we’d need to reinvest in such stores.  The hope is that the government outlay would decrease in time, but initially, a real investment is needed.  The payoff is incalculable.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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