This charming You Tube video is brought to our attention by Shelf Awareness. They write: “Ray Russell, founder of British independent publisher Tartarus Press, told the story of his Mild Case of Bibliomania and how it led to his becoming a publisher in a YouTube video. TeleRead noted that, ‘ironically for a publisher who produces some marvelously high-quality and reasonably-priced e-books of dark fiction and horror, he is a complete devotee of the printed word, with a book collection that needs to be seen to be believed.'”
. . . or announces that he’ll no longer be writing his regular column. His story, from Publishing Business Today, gives a clear picture of his vast experience in our business.
NPR did a story this morning, telling us that independent bookstores were doing quite well. This comes a day after GalleyCat reported that Barnes & Noble’s revenues were down 8% for the last quarter. I do think conditions favor the small, nimble, niche dwellers at this point in the evolution of the book business both retail and publishing (Amazon’s continued total dominance excepted of course).
In a January post, I wrote of signs of health among independent bookstores. I suspect these are indications of the balkanization of the book business. It is true that Random House Penguin has really only just got going, but I’m going to predict that that will be the last of the publishing mega-mergers. The book business just isn’t suited to a big business configuration. Books want to be loved as individuals. Selling them in bulk isn’t ideal — there are just so many of them, and each one is directed at one person: the author has a reader in mind, and any one customer will be likely to want this book but not that one or those others. Publishing and selling to like-minded groups of individuals isn’t really a business model that lends itself to consolidation and scale. We’ve tried it, and we’ve almost always been disappointed.
Amazon is amazing, sui generis, and goes from strength to strength. I was interviewed by Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles (a weekly podcast) recently and made some fairly rude comments about the people in publishing who are always badmouthing Amazon. It’s true that Amazon uses its dominant position to demand more and more from its suppliers, but that’s what any large business does — think of Walmart, and than think where the low prices really come from. Naturally publishers do exactly the same to the book manufacturing suppliers they use, without any similar complaining. But it’s hard to imagine a regular book publisher whose largest customer isn’t Amazon: one or two have I acknowledge tried to abjure sales to Amazon, and I wonder how that’s going for them. Grousing about your largest customer is traditional if maladaptive behavior.
Here’s the solution to your problem with all those pesky books you have cluttering up your shelves. This BuzzFeed video shows you how to convert that space into something that can store really important stuff while still making you look like an intellectual.
I have not abandoned ship. The reason I haven’t written any posts recently is that I have to spend every spare minute reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones etc.). I was sent there by Daniel Mendelsohn’s review in the New York Review of Books 7 November 2013 issue. To be fair the review did contain a warning that the books might take over your life. I can thoroughly recommend them — they have a narrative drive which won’t let you get off the roundabout, and are written with style and verve. I am currently in the middle of volume four. I bought a 4-book bundle for Kindle which Amazon were selling for $15.99 — an excellent price for over 4000 pages of old-world intrigue, blood and thunder. I read on my iPad until it runs out of charge, when I plug it in and switch to my iPod Touch. Occasionally I come up for food and sleep. I plan not to buy volume five until six and seven are also available, so that I can return to the 21st century for a while.
Later: I did of course end up buying and reading volume 5 right away after finishing volume 4. After all, as I said, it is compulsive. Now I have to await Mr Martin’s WordPerfect progress.