Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garrison Keiler on the End of Publishing

There is an interesting article from Garrison Keillor in the New York Times. It's called "The End of an Era in Publishing." If you haven't read it, you should. Keillor is a self-admitted pessimist, but he presents his pessimism in such an attractive package, it's not easy to disagree with his prediction of publishing's imminent demise.

Thad McIlroy, over at The Future of Publishing, left a short post you should read, too. Orwell vs.Huxley on the Future of Books reminds us that this discussion has been going on for a long time.

Back in March of this year, Stephen Lowman, staff writer for the Washington Post wrote an article called, The Future of Children’s Book Publishing. He quotes Michael Norris, an analyst for the media research firm Simba Information, who said publishers of children's books are "unbelievably important" to the survival of publishing as a whole. The article also interviewed Jeff Kinney, whose “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series was originally published online, not as a book. Kinney said, "I feel like I am hedging my bets by keeping one foot in the print world and one foot in the online world," Kinney said.

I work with media specialists on a regular basis. This spring I was talking to one who had her doubts that e-books would ever replace the paper version. Her reasoning? Too many kids don’t have the resources to purchase a Kindle or an iPad. Too many of her teen readers still want the feel of a book in their hands. Too many school districts don’t have the funds to buy them for their students and fix them when they break.

For the moment, I lean to the my media specialist’s side of the argument, no matter how much I enjoy the way Garrison Keillor puts words together.

What do you think? Leave me a comment. I'd like to hear which camp your experience places you in.


  1. We will have to share the stage with eBooks, but nothing, I mean NOTHING can replace the feel of turning those pages to see what will happen next! I will never give in the the Kindle or iPad!!!!

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog post!

  2. I agree with you, Gail. Sometimes when my daughter can't decide between books, she bases her final decision on which one smells the best. E-books won't manage that unless someone comes up with a 4-D iPad that engages all the senses. Oh dear, I wonder if someone's trying!

  3. I think it's not as clear cut as "are books dead?" I don't think that's really the argument. I have a Kindle - I love my Kindle - I have bought more books since getting my Kindle than I did in ALL of last year, and I just got it for Christmas! Now, I didn't say I'd READ more books - just I've BOUGHT more. I usually read/ get all from the library...but the kindle is so convenient, so addictive, you can sample whole segments chapters that just totally HOOK you that you don't want to wait for the Interlibrary loan!!!! SO, I think that KINDLE is a GOOD thing for a publisher. And yes, nothing can change the tactile experience of a paper book if you've grown up on I think it will be that BOTH stick around. To me, I think the question is what Garrison said about people not reading stories/whole books enough. I disagree. I think that if publishers can stay afloat/figure out this new medium, there'll be more readers than ever. I think facebook and texting and blogs are all a part of GREATER literacy - not less!

    I remember when VCRs came out and everyone said "oh - it's the death of movie theaters!" and then -- nope. I bet when the folio book came out some people said "oh no, it's the end of the scroll!" and it was. And that was a good thing.

    My only worry is for publishers. They need to do like apple re: i-tunes and get ON this e-book format. Make it easy (like Kindle) make it affordable (like Kindle)get enough profits for your to employ editors (So important) and promote the hell out of all your books. I think people/readers will still want publishers to "vett" --believe/publish/push books and not read free (and often crappily done) books.

    And - FINALLY - I also agree with the media specialists out there. You can't easily loan a kindle - they are elitist right books will still be in libraries/media centers. Although I saw on the news about a media center in a private school that got rid of ALL their books and replaced them with Kindles for the kids. Wild! Also, probably the future.

  4. Hi, Ash. Thanks for the comments. I agree with you that e-books are not going anywhere and publishers really ought to get on the bandwagon. I haven't bought a Kindle yet, but I'm still drooling after playing with yours.

    Wow! A library that replaced all their books with Kindles is wild and crazy. What about all the books not yet available in the format?!

    I have a friend in the music industry and the downloadable MP3 formats like iTunes and others have seriously taken a chunk out of the industry market. It's been interesting to see the change. I finally bought an iPod Shuffle last month, but not for music. I wanted it for audio books, which I tend to listen to more than reading lately. When they make e-books/Kindle readers with professional narrators, I'm definitely going to be on board.