Feb 28, 2012

Henry’s discontent: book-trade blues

W H Chong — Culture Mulcher

W H Chong

Culture Mulcher

The estimable Henry Rosenbloom, publisher of Scribe, has posted a blog sung in a key of passionate blue (pardon the purple). He’s a great believer in transparency, and here he is exposing the entrails of the crisis that our book trade is undergoing — and everyone gets to share in the pain.

Authors, book printers, multinationals: every category of woe is (rather cleverly) situated with an if:

“If you’re an independent bookseller in Australia at the moment, you probably feel better than anyone else in the industry does…”

“If you’re a book-buyer working for one of the big chains or department stores, you’re probably dreaming of a promotion to the meat products section…”

“If you’re a literary agent, you’re probably worried about where your next dollar is going to come from…”

“If you’re an author…”, “If you’re a book printer…”

(Though he doesn’t mention the poor old book editor, or book designer *sigh*.)

And of course: “If you’re a book publisher, you’ve got the blues real bad.”

He doesn’t neglect to lay the blame at the end.

Read Henry. Buy books. Act local (at least, some of the time.)

+ + +

Do we need publishers?

Over at the Guardian, the outrageously succesful British author Anthony Horowitz has written a piece titled, “Do We Still Need Publishers?” Which he thought was less partisan than “Thank Christ We Don’t Need Bloody Publishers Any More”.

He writes:

I remember my first meeting at Walker Books. The first question they asked me – and I swear this is true – was what mug would I like my tea in: the one with the teddy bear, the tennis racket or the pink one with the flower? And when I left the building, they asked me if I’d be OK taking the tube on my own. I was 33. I was married with a child. But they clearly saw me as some sort of demented child myself.

But wait, there’s more, plot and twists — it’s devious, and very considered: you’ll just have to read the whole thing…


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “Henry’s discontent: book-trade blues

  1. W H Chong

    Dear Russell,
    I’ve been googling for a deep thinker named Chong, but no matches apart from Cheech.
    The position is: nobody knows, yet. And when we do, it (whatever situation “it” represents) will be too late.
    As with any technical revolution (farming, the wheel, domesticatrion of animals) something has to give, and we adapt, madly scurrying. And some of us, many of us, will just not find our foothold.
    But this particular crisis really only affects the first world (you know where I mean) — a very interesting detail. At least over here, when we fall, it’s not too far.

    BTW I should add that I am great fan of good baristas; and know my three favourite local b’s by name. Barista: giving people comfort and pleasure; why not?

    As of now, the ebook trade is about 1 in 6 items. I just bought three titles for my ancient father-in-law to read on his scalable type e-reader. Can we live without paper. Will the internet-cloud-espace become the ruling standard? The information may be transmitted in 1s and 0s, but we will still be drinking coffee.

  2. Russell

    It’s not just book publishing… Here’s a question for deep thinkers like Chong: after the meltdown of every industry employing writers, photographers and graphic artists, is this internet thingy is such a great idea?

    The entire printing industry, right through its entire production chain was local (largely) and sustainable. It has evaporated in just one decade and with it, the employment of creatives. The upside here? We get a big churn of work experience people fresh out of communications and graphics degrees through my office (still, just, dead tree). Of course I’m upbeat, can play the “wise sage” (old enough not to worry). But really my advice should be, “Get a job as a barista.”

  3. Meski

    No, we don’t. But editors are still bloody essential. Try reading unedited kindle books to find out why. Authors, if they are good, can self-edit, but most cannot.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details