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Thomas J. Hennen Jr. writes:It may be a still be a great time to be a publisher or a librarian, despite all the problems, it seems.
Jason Epstein has a fascinating article that parallels the recent \'Great Time to Be a Librarian\' thread on PubLib (see digests 1233 to 1236 at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/PubLib/
Epstein\'s article is on the future of the book publishing business and it is titled \'The Rattle of Pebbles.\'It can be found in the New York Review of Books; Volume XLVII, Number 7; Cover Date: April 27, 2000. It is on also the web at:
Says Epstein: \"Twenty years ago when my children and their friends came of age I advised them to shun the publishing business. Today I would offer young people, the opposite advice. The transformation that awaits them foreshadows cultural ramifications that can hardly be imagined but that promise a lifetime of creative adventure...\"
Later Epstein adds that in the 50’s his Random House offices “were a second home for writers as well as for ourselves. Mrs. Debanzie, our Scottish receptionist, usually sent them upstairs to see us unannounced: W.H. Auden in torn overcoat and carpet slippers delivering the manuscript of The Dyer\'s Hand; Ted Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, arriving with his story boards to recite Green Eggs and Ham to us in Bennett Cerf\'s large, square office at the end of the hall; Cardinal Spellman submitting his poetry, which we published as a neighborly act and to forestall controversy with the monsignors over our parking spaces.”
Epstein compares publishing until it was high jacked by the bean counters in the 80’s to a craft or vocation – something that will ring true to those of us in public libraries. He believes that technology may free the cottage industrialists of the book for their true vocations yet again -- something that we librarians can also pray for.
Says Epstein cogently “Many valuable books—most in fact—are not meant to be best sellers, and these tend to be slighted in the triage of contemporary publishing and bookselling.” Not to worry, Mr. Epstein, libraries can and do take care.
Those worried about the likelihood that the net will destroy our beloved libraries will hear more than a bit of an echo in Epstein’s assertion that: “Such name-brand best-selling authors as Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Grisham… no more need publishers to edit and publicize their books than Nabisco needs Julia Child to improve and publicize Oreos... Should publishers cease to exist—a likely possibility sooner or later if not a certainty—these functions could be performed equally well by independent contractors available for hire: production consultants, publicity agencies, and distribution services.”
He goes on to note that: “The old technologies of internal combustion and mass marketing that created the homogeneous suburban marketplace and its chain bookstores are being challenged by technologies that foreshadow a highly decentralized marketplace offering the possibility of nearly infinite choice to buyers at innumerable remote locations.”
Sign me still,
Thomas J. Hennen Jr.
6014 Spring Street
Voice: 414-886-1625 Fax: 414-886-5424