Everyone I know who works in the book biz—and even everyone I know who likes to read—is talking about what’s happening to the industry. And folks who are a lot smarter than me have opinions about it. Including best-selling author Nick Hornby.
I love Nick. He makes me laugh. I bought a paperback copy of Fever Pitch at a bookstore in Reading, England, twelve years ago and thereafter quickly powered my way through High Fidelity and About a Boy. Since then I’ve read all his subsequent novels and nonfiction, and occasionally I check in with his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column in the monthly magazine Believer. (Because I love anyone who admits he buys more books than he reads.)
In the July/August 2012 issue, Nick talks about the publishing industry. You should read the entire thing; it’s not long. But this made me laugh out loud, mostly because I’ve seen it play out dozens of times for real.
ME: It’s pretty worrying, all this iPad and Kindle stuff.
NICE BOOK LOVER: Why?
ME: It’s not just the physical book that’s under threat. Have you been on a plane or a train recently? Nobody’s reading at all, in any form. They’re all watching screens.
NBL: Oh, I love books.
ME: Yeah, I know, but …
NBL: There’s nothing like the experience of being immersed in fiction.
ME: I agree, but …
NBL: And I could never switch to a Kindle. I love the smell of a new book. The feel of it. I like to know where I am in a book, and …
ME: I know you do, but …
NBL: Plus, I love my local independent bookstore. The people there are so knowledgeable, and they recommend things that they know I’ll—
ME: Yes, but there are only seventy-three of you in the entire country! You’re fifty years old! Your kids don’t even know which way up they should hold a book! The only reason people ever used to read in the first place was because they had nothing else to do, and now they have a million things to do, even in a dentist’s waiting room! Will you shut the f*** up about you?
NBL: I think you should go home now. You’re upsetting the other dinner guests.
He’s only partially right. There are plenty of people reading books (formats may vary). But folks in the publishing industry are concerned, for a variety of reasons, and you should be too. I’ve written about it more than once. You could follow Richard Eoin Nash, Jane Friedman, Mike Shatzkin, and Porter Anderson, just to name a few, to learn more about the issues. If you care about books and the people who write them, you should.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”