Archives for the month of: January, 2014

GalleyCat has this story today, written by Diana Dilworth.

There are many opinions on how to price an eBook and therefore eBook prices can be wildly different. This fact is especially true when comparing the pricing models in different countries.

eBook price comparison site Luzme did a comparison of eBook prices in the US with those price on eBooks in the UK and discovered some differences. The company found that the average price for an eBook is the US is anywhere from $1 up to $10, with the most popular range $1-2. However, eBooks that earned the most revenue cost $9-10. In the UK, on the other hand, the most popular price for an eBook was less than £1 and this category also generated the most revenue.

TechCrunch has more from the report:

In the UK, there is usually a fierce price war going on between Amazon and some new entrant; currently it is Sainsburys, previously it was Sony and Nook. But there is usually someone trying to buy market share by discounting the price. Previously we had the 20p offer from Sony, now 99p seems more common. In the USA, the current tussle appears to be between the existing ebook stores and the new startups wanting to sell you a subscription model (aka “Netflix/Spotify for ebooks”)

AAP: Association of American Publishers http://www.publishers.org Trade association for US book publishers

AAR: Association of Authors’ Representatives http://aaronline.org Trade association for US literary agents

AAUP: Association of American University Presses  http://www.aaupnet.org  Trade association for US University Presses 

ABA: American Booksellers Association  http://www.bookweb.org Trade association for independent booksellers in the United States

ABAA: Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America  http://www.abaa.org Promotes ethical standards and professionalism in the antiquarian book trade

ABFFE: American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression  http://www.abffe.org  The bookseller’s voice in the fight against censorship

ABM: American Business Media  http://www.abmassociation.com/abm/default.asp Association of business information providers, delivering business intelligence to industry, Madison Avenue, Wall Street and the Beltway

ABPA: American Book Producers Association http://www.abpaonline.org Trade association for independent book producers, also called packagers, in the United States and Canada

ACAP: Automated Content Access Protocol http://www.the-acap.org Making copyright work on the net

ACRL: Association of College and Research Libraries http://www.ala.org/acrl/ Professional association of academic librarians and other interested individuals (a division of the ALA)

ACTS: Advisory Commission on Textbook Specifications  The BMI group involved with textbook specifications

AEP: Association of Education Publishers (a division of AAP) http://www.aepweb.org  National, non-profit professional organization for educational publishers and content developers 

AF&PA American Forest and Paper Association   http://www.afandpa.org/  Serves to advance a sustainable U.S. pulp, paper, packaging, and wood products manufacturing industry through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy

AG: Authors Guild  http://www.authorsguild.org  Leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression 

ALA: American Library Association http://www.ala.org  Non-profit trade association which promotes library service and librarianship

ALPSP: Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers http://www.alpsp.org The the largest international trade association for scholarly and professional publishers

ANSI: American National Standards Institute www.ansi.org

APA: Audio Publishers Association  http://www.audiopub.org  Non-profit trade association for audio publishers

APC: Article Processing Charge  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_processing_charge  Charge levied for processing of an open access journal article 

API: Application Programming Interface  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/apis/

APSS: Association of Publishers for Special Sales  http://www.spannet.org/page/community-policies  Non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing the interests and expertise of independent publishers and authors through educational opportunities and discounted services

ARC: Advance reading copy: a bound galley  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance_copy

ARL: Association of Research Libraries  http://www.arl.org  Non-profit organization of 123 research libraries at comprehensive, research-extensive institutions in the US and Canada

ASCAP: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers http://www.ascap.com  Protecting the use of its members’ musical works, monitoring broadcast, online and live usage and ensuring that music creators are fairly compensatedASME: American Society of Magazine Editors  http://www.magazine.org/asme  The principal organization for magazine journalists in USA

ASIN: Amazon Standardized Identifier Number  The in-house equivalent of ISBNs which has enabled Amazon to move beyond just book selling

ASME: American Society of Magazine Editors  http://www.magazine.org/asme  The principal organization for magazine journalists in USA

BA: Booksellers Association http://www.booksellers.org.uk  UK equivalent of ABA

BEA: Book Expo America  http://www.bookexpoamerica.com The large trade show usually held in New York

BIC: Book Industry Communication http://www.bic.org.uk  UK supply chain efficiency organization

BIEC: Book Industry Environmental Council  http://www.bookcouncil.org  Strives to benchmark, track and improve our industry’s environmental footprint

BINC: Book Industry Charitable Foundation http://www.bincfoundation.org To strengthen the bookselling community through charitable programs that support employees and their families

BIGNY: Book Industry Guild of New York  http://bookindustryguildofny.org   A member-operated professional organization of professionals from the book publishing and book manufacturing industries. Formerly Book Binders Guild of New York.

BISAC: Book Industry Standards and Communications https://www.bisg.org/bisac-subject-codes A system of industry standard subjects codes 

BISG: Book Industry Study Group  www.bisg.org  Non-profit trade association working to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products

BISG: Book Industry Strategy Group (Australia)   Link to website   Group founded to help Australian publishers to adjust to digital environment

BMI: Book Manufacturers’ Institute http://www.bmibook.org  Trade association for the book manufacturing industry

C1S: Coated one side  Paper description – usually for covers

C2S: Coated on both sides  Paper description

CBA: Association for Christian Retail  http://cbaonline.org  Trade association for the Christian Retail Channel 

CBC: Children’s Book Council  http://www.cbcbooks.org  Headquarters for Children’s Book Week and Young People’s Poetry Week

CCI: Center for Copyright Information http://www.copyrightinformation.org  A collaboration between the content community and Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to educate consumers about the importance of copyright protection

CCC: Copyright Clearance Center   http://www.copyright.com  A private, commercial, global rights broker for books, journals, blogs, & movies, originally established as a not-for-profit service 

CIROBE: Chicago International Remainder & Overstock Book Exhibition  http://www.cirobe.com

CIF: Cost Insurance & Freight  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/shipping-to-usa-from-overseas/

CIP: Cataloging in Publication http://www.loc.gov/publish/cip/  A bibliographic record prepared by the Library of Congress for a book that has not yet been published

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/color/  The four process ink colors

COPE: Committee on Publication Ethics   http://www.publicationethics.org  A forum for editors and publishers of peer reviewed journals to discuss all aspects of publication ethics.

DOI: Digital Object Identifier  http://www.doi.org

DPI: Dots per inch http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/02/26/ppi-vs-dpi-whats-the-difference/

DRM: Digital Rights Management  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management

EBMA: Educational Book & Media Association http://www.edupaperback.org  An association of distributors and publishers of trade paperback books and audio materials to the school, college, and/or library markets

EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/ebitda.asp An indicator of a company’s financial performance, often quoted instead of “profit”

EBSCO http://www.ebsco.com  Provider of database services to library markets

ECPA: Evangelical Christian Publishers Association  http://www.ecpa.org  International non-profit trade organization comprised of member companies that are involved in the publishing and distribution of Christian content worldwide

EDI: Electronic Data Interchange

EFA: Editorial Freelancers Association http://www.the-efa.org/about.php  An association of  publishing freelancers

EMA: Envelope Manufacturers Association http://www.envelope.org/

EPA: Environmental Protection Agency  http://www.epa.gov/

EPUB see IDPF

F&Gs: A set of folded and gathered signatures

FOB: Free on Board  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/shipping-to-usa-from-overseas/

FSC: Forest Stewardship Council  https://us.fsc.org  Promoting environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests 

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/gif/ 

GPI: Green Press Initiative  http://www.greenpressinitiative.org  Advancing sustainable patterns of production and consumption in the US book and newspaper industries, and in the paper industry at large

HBI/LBI: Hardcover Binders International/Library Binding Institute http://www.lbibinders.org  Trade association for hardcover & library repair binders. Now merging with BMI

IBPA: The Independent Book Publishers Association http://www.ibpa-online.org Largest non-profit trade association representing independent publishers

ICC: International Color Consortium  http://www.color.org  Trade group that promotes the use and adoption of open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management systems

IDPF: International Digital Publishers Forum  http://idpf.org  Trade group that develops and maintains the EPUB standard

IPA: The Independent Publishers Awards http://www.ipg.uk.com/awards UK awards run jointly by IPG, The Bookseller, and the London Book Fair

IPG: The Independent Publishers Guild http://www.ipg.uk.com/home UK trade association representing independent publishers

ISBN: International Standard Book Number https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/bookland-ean-isbns/

ISMN: International Standard Music Number  http://www.ismn-international.org

ISNI: International Standard Name Identifier  http://www.isni.org

ISSN: International Standard Serial Number  http://www.issn.org

ISTC: International Standard Text Code  http://www.istc-international.org/html/

ITI: Information Technology Industry Council  http://www.itic.org  The premiere voice, advocate, and thought leader for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry

LMP: Literary Market Place http://www.literarymarketplace.com Reference book listing all book publishers and manufacturers

LPC: Library Publishing Coalition  http://www.librarypublishing.org  Our goal is to explore how to better serve the scholarly communication needs of the academic community, through sustainable, innovative library publishing solutions aligned with institutional missions.

M Weight: the weight of 1000 sheets of paper in the standard size for that grade (25″ x 38″ for book paper)  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/basis-weight/ 

MARC: MAchine-Readable Cataloging  http://www.loc.gov/marc/  Data format in which most library catalogs are now stored. Initiated by Library of Congress 

MSST: The Manufacturing Standards and Specifications for Textbooks   The textbook manufacturing specifications issued by ACTS

NACS: National Association of College Stores http://www.nacs.org Leading resource and advocate for the higher education retail market

NAIPR: National Association of Independent Publishers Representatives  http://www.naipr.org/Home.html  Trade association of more than 200 commission sales reps and 500 publishers and other Associate Members

NASTA: National Association of State Textbook Administrators   The organization which formulated textbook manufacturing specifications

NAW: National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors  http://www.naw.org Encompasses over 100 national line-of-trade associations

NBA: National Book Awards

NBF: National Book Foundation  http://www.nationalbook.org  Oversees the National Book Awards 

NBN: National Book Network  http://www.nbnbooks.com An independent marketing and distribution company

NISO: National Information Standards Organization http://www.niso.org/home/  Maintains several key, book industry standards in the U.S.

NPES: Association for Suppliers of Printing and Publishing Technologies http://www.npes.org Trade association of over 400 companies which manufacture and distribute equipment, systems, software, supplies used in printing, publishing and converting

NPTA: National Paper Trade Association  http://www.gonpta.com/  Association for the paper distribution channel, serving the printing, publishing, catalog, direct mail, imaging, retail and corporate markets.

OCLC: Online Computer Library Center (Originally Ohio College Library Center) http://www.oclc.org/en-US/home.html  Worldwide library cooperative

ONIX: ONline Information eXchange  http://www.editeur.org/8/ONIX/  International standard for computer-to-computer communication. Initially developed by EDItEUR, BIC and BISG

PA: Publishers Association  http://www.publishers.org.uk UK equivalent of AAP

PEN American Center(P.E.N. = poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists) https://www.pen.org  International literary and human rights organization

PBAA: Periodical and Book Association of America  http://www.pbaa.net  Non-profit organization for publishers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, consultants and industry service providers

PDF: Portable Document Format   http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/adobepdf.html

PE: Printer’s error  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/record-pe/ (Contrast with AA, author’s error and EA, Editor’s error)

PLR: Public Lending Right http://www.plr.uk.com  A national system in UK whereby authors receive payment for the lending of their books by libraries. A similar system, Public Lending Remuneration, operates in Ireland

POD: Print on demand 

PPB: Paper, Printing and Binding (costs) https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/economics-of-the-book/

PPI: Pages Per Inch  https://rhollick.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/ppi/  A measure of the thickness of paper

PPI: Pixels per inch http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/02/26/ppi-vs-dpi-whats-the-difference/

PSP: Professional/Scholarly Publishing (a division of AAP)

RAN: Rainforest Action Network: Rainforest Action Network http://ran.org  Campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants, and systems

RFID: Radio Frequency ID http://www.editeur.org/90/RFID/

RROs: Reproduction Rights Organizations  http://support.copyright.com/index.php?action=article&id=195&relid=32

SHARP: Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing http://www.sharpweb.org  An academic list serve

 SFI: Sustainable Forestry Initiative http://www.sfiprogram.org/  An independent, nonprofit organization that is solely responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) program. 

SPAN: Small Publishers of North America — see APSS

SPARC: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition http://sparcopen.org  Enabling the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge

STOPP: Stop Tariffs on Print and Publishers. A coalition of printers, publishers, and paper suppliers, as well as their associated trade groups,

TAPPI: Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry  http://www.tappi.org  Professional organization dedicated to the pulp and paper industries

UPC: Universal Product Code http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Product_Code  Barcode symbology on which the ISBN is based

WNBA: Women’s National Book Association  http://www.wnba-books.org Promotes reading and supports the role of women in the book community

W3C: World Wide Web Consortium http://www.w3.org develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.

YALSA: Young Adult Library Services Association  http://www.ala.org/yalsa/  A division of ALA

IMG_0013This poster was designed and printed by Beatrice Warde in 1932 to celebrate the new typeface, Perpetua, which Eric Gill has just designed.

I just saw this one in the Simon & Schuster offices today. Whether it is an original or not I cannot say. One used to see them all over the place in publishers’ offices — but now they are rather unusual.

IMG_0012At the end of the third line of the third stanza of this the 1961 Penguin Swinburne, you can see a word space between the last two words. In Monotype setting the word space was a separate piece of lead which should have fitted down between the o and the h. This one got loose at some point and rose up till it was type high. Thus it got inked and printed. This was a not altogether unusual occurrence — the pressman probably noticed it quickly, unlocked the form, beat the errant space down, and resumed printing.

Note also that this paperback was smith-sewn, even though it was printed on groundwood paper.

Here from The New York Review of Books, almost a year ago, is one of the more positive and thoughtful pieces I’ve seen about the differences between e-reading and p-reading.

E-books Can’t Burn

Interviewed after winning England’s Costa Prize for Literature in late January, the distinguished novelist Andrew Miller remarked that while he assumed that soon most popular fiction would be read on screen, he believed and hoped that literary fiction would continue to be read on paper. In his Man Booker Prize acceptance speech last October, Julian Barnes made his own plea for the survival of printed books. Jonathan Franzen has also declared himself of the same faith. At the university where I work, certain professors, old and young, will react with disapproval at the notion that one is reading poetry on a Kindle. It is sacrilege.

Are they right?

In practical terms it is all too easy to defend the e-book. We can buy a text instantly wherever we are in the world. We pay less. We use no paper, occupy no space. Kindle’s wireless system keeps our page, even when we open the book on a different reader than the one we left off. We can change the type size according to the light and our eyesight. We can change the font according to our taste. Cooped up in the press of the metro, we turn the pages by applying a light pressure of the thumb. Lying in bed, we don’t have that problem of having to use two hands to keep a fat paperback open.

But I want to go beyond practicality to the reading experience itself, our engagement with the text. What is it that these literary men and women are afraid of losing should the paper novel really go into decline? Surely not the cover, so often a repository of misleading images and tediously fulsome endorsements. Surely not the pleasure of running fingers and eyes over quality paper, something that hardly alters whether one is reading Jane Austen or Dan Brown. Hopefully it is not the quality of the paper that determines our appreciation for the classics.

Could it be the fact that the e-book thwarts our ability to find particular lines by remembering their position on the page? Or our love of scribbling comments (of praise and disgust) in the margin? It’s true that on first engagement with the e-book we become aware of all kinds of habits that are no longer possible, skills developed over many years that are no longer relevant. We can’t so easily flick through the pages to see where the present chapter ends, or whether so and so is going to die now or later. In general, the e-book discourages browsing, and though the bar at the bottom of the screen showing the percentage of the book we’ve completed lets us know more or less where we’re up to, we don’t have the reassuring sense of the physical weight of the thing (how proud children are when they get through their first long tome!), nor the computational pleasures of page numbers (Dad, I read 50 pages today). This can be a problem for academics: it’s hard to give a proper reference if you don’t have page numbers.

But are these old habits essential? Mightn’t they actually be distracting us from the written word itself? Weren’t there perhaps specific pleasures when reading on parchment scroll that we know nothing of and have lived happily without? Certainly there were those who lamented the loss of calligraphy when the printing press made type impersonal. There were some who believed that serious readers would always prefer serious books to be copied by hand.

What are the core characteristics of literature as a medium and an art form? Unlike painting there is no physical image to contemplate, nothing that impresses itself on the eye in the same way, given equal eyesight. Unlike sculpture, there is no artifact you can walk around and touch. You don’t have to travel to look at literature. You don’t have to line up or stand in the crowd, or worry about getting a good seat. Unlike music you don’t have to respect its timing, accepting an experience of a fixed duration. You can’t dance to it or sing along or take a photo or make a video with your phone.

Literature is made up of words. They can be spoken or written. If spoken, volume and speed and accent can vary. If written, the words can appear in this or that type-face on any material, with any impagination. Joyce is as much Joyce in Baskerville as in Times New Roman. And we can read these words at any speed, interrupt our reading as frequently as we choose. Somebody who reads Ulysses in two weeks hasn’t read it any more or less than someone who reads it in three months, or three years.

Only the sequence of the words must remain inviolate. We can change everything about a text but the words themselves and the order they appear in. The literary experience does not lie in any one moment of perception, or any physical contact with a material object (even less in the “possession” of handsome masterpieces lined up on our bookshelves), but in the movement of the mind through a sequence of words from beginning to end. More than any other art form it is pure mental material, as close as one can get to thought itself. Memorized, a poem is as surely a piece of literature in our minds as it is on the page. If we say the words in sequence, even silently without opening our mouths, then we have had a literary experience—perhaps even a more intense one than a reading from the page. It’s true that our owning the object—War and Peace or Moby Dick—and organizing these and other classics according to chronology and nation of origin will give us an illusion of control: as if we had now “acquired” and “digested” and “placed” a piece of culture. Perhaps that is what people are attached to. But in fact we all know that once the sequence of words is over and the book closed what actually remains in our possession is very difficult, wonderfully difficult to pin down, a richness (or sometimes irritation) that has nothing to do with the heavy block of paper on our shelves.

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.

Add to that the e-book’s ease of transport, its international vocation (could the Iron Curtain have kept out e-books?), its indestructibility (you can’t burn e-books), its promise that all books will be able to remain forever in print and what is more available at reasonable prices, and it becomes harder and harder to see why the literati are not giving the phenomenon a more generous welcome.

February 15, 2012, 3:55 p.m.

When we’d get an older book (for which we had no electronic files) ready for print-on-demand, we’d get a copy and send it off to be scanned. The spine would be chopped off and the pages fed automatically into a sheet-fed scanner. Obviously some books are too valuable/unique to permit this destruction, so there are several ways of scanning the pages without taking the book apart. The technology started off with a machine where the operator had to turn each page by hand, and has evolved to a number of automated processes. This video illustrates one, from Kirtas.

A post from the British Library gives an account of the scanning of one of their valuable texts, Codex Alexandrinus, and links to the finished version, which is accessible via the small picture halfway down the page. The photo accompanying the story shows a set-up calling for operator page-turning.6a00d8341c464853ef017c34b48120970b-500wi

Professor Gillespie refers to chemise binding in the video in the previous post.

Here’s the definition of chemise binding from the Glossary of the British Library Catalogue: “The medieval precursor of the modern dust jacket, a chemise is a slip-on cover of leather or of a textile such as velvet or linen that protected the binding of a book and its fore edge.  Chemises varied in form from high-grade luxurious embellishments for Books of Hours and Prayer Books to functional wrappers for administrative records and library books.”

IMG_0011It sounds a bit like the embroidered cover on my great-aunt Alice Jennings’s editions of Jane Austen, and those protective paper covers we used to put over books at school. Also, no doubt it is ancestral to the yapp edges sometimes given to leather-bound Bibles.

Here’s a link to instructions for making a more elaborate version.

 

Alexandra Gillespie is a member of the Department of English at the University of Toronto. She teaches medieval literature, bibliography, and manuscript studies. Her research is concerned with medieval and early modern texts and books; she is especially interested in the shift from manuscript to print, in the relationship between book history, literary criticism, and literary theory, and in issues arising from the digitization of medieval books. The interviewer here takes her into speculation about the future of e-books. Everything she says seems very sensible.

Colin Robinson has a piece in last Sunday’s New York Times strangely entitled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reader”. (Probably the title’s not his fault.) The message boils down to a claim that the mid-list book is no longer being published; which is seen as a bad thing.

We need to be constantly vigilant that we avoid the pitfall of claiming that because things are now different from what they were when we were young, they are therefore worse. Different is just different, not axiomatically worse.

“The ‘mid-list’ in trade publishing parlance is a bit like the middle class in American politics” Robinson tells us in an odd simile. It got me thinking, but I fear my thinking didn’t take me much further than the surface. What really typifies the mid-list book he’s thinking of is that it attracts an advance — usually fairly modest, and quite likely to be one of those which fails to earn out. Now, we can all see how no longer being able to get an advance for that mid-list book is bad for the people who write them, but to extend that to dire forecasts about the state of literature is putting way to much weight on the facts. In so far as these mid-list books are apprentice work for the few who go on to write blockbusters, we can assume that alternative routes to publication will be found (and indeed Robinson himself identifies many). His fear is that “the mid-list, publishing’s experimental laboratory, is being abandoned”. But what is at most being abandoned is surely the smaller end of mid-list publishing from companies who focus on blockbusters. Plenty of non-blockbusters are (of course) still being published. Because of all the well-known stresses on the business, trade houses have to be ever more focussed on big sellers, and so have less space on their lists for smaller books. They also need to moderate the cash which used to flow out in advances. Robinson himself complains about the fact that a record 300,000 new titles were published in 2012. Is it too hard to imagine that some of these missing mid-list books are turning up in the catalogs of smaller, non-establishment publishing companies, like the one Colin Robinson himself works for. If he doesn’t see it, I guess I should hesitate to contradict. Certainly some of them are being self-published — and what’s wrong with that? It is surely rash to sneer at the 300,000 people he reports as participating in Nanowrimo in 2012 — maybe he might want to sign one of them some day.

To describe publishing employees as “professionals who have traditionally provided guidance for those picking up a book” seems a bit condescending as well as unrealistic. The only people who think that any guide to the quality of a book is provided by the fact that this one is published by Knopf, while that one is published by Back-Street Books are the folks employed by publishers to whom such distinctions are life and death, or better, bread and butter. Most readers probably can’t name more than 3 or 4 publishers anyway. True he does imply that reviewers and librarians, groups he sees as being under threat too, are also guidance providers. Strangely he doesn’t really include booksellers, the main group who do often provide advice and guidance to the searching reader.

Not only are these professionals allegedly facing existential threat — he also finds that the reader is disappearing! “Reading, always a solitary affair, is increasingly a lonely one” he tells us, despite the fact that his essay goes on about Goodreads, that epitome of the “social reading” which has become such a feature of our times. I think it is really silly for publishing folks to keep on about how hard we all find it to concentrate nowadays so that we can scarcely read long-form work (i.e. a book). If we say it often enough, some fools out there may start to believe it’s true — after all lots of people think that what they read in The New York Times must be true. Of course it is nonsense — I spoke to a guy in the laundry room the other day who’d just finished War and Peace for the first time, and was now reading Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate (the War and Peace of World War II). And I did just read 5,000 pages of George R. R. Martin in one go recently. Does that mean I get to write an op-ed piece in the Times reporting on people’s renewed thirst for really long books?

John Cheever may have said: “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone” but he almost certainly didn’t have his Knopf editor in mind when he said it, nor the book reviewer for The New York Times, nor his local librarian — though muses can of course be found anywhere. Any writer will write with a “reader” in mind — an ideal reader who may or may not correspond to some actual, existing person. Even if every one of the disappearing readers Robinson thinks are at risk vanishes from this earth, authors will continue to address their own reader/muse whenever they write.

Publishers Lunch of 7 January brings us a round-up of these lists:

“With picks aggregated from a total of 58 sources in all, the clear consensus for the 2013 ‘book of the year’ has ended in . . . a tie. George Saunders’ Tenth of December and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch stood well above all others in the final count, each garnering 25 picks. (That ties them with the votes for Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies a year ago, but leaves them short of the 2012 book of the year, Katherine Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers, which made 29 different lists.)”

The New Yorker reviewed it under the heading “The Greatest American Novel You’ve Never Heard Of” last October.

9781590171998_jpg_200x450_q85I noticed that in the Times Literary Supplement’s issue of December 2013, in which 73 notables get to write about their books of the year, the most frequently mentioned book was John Williams’ Stoner, reissued in America in 2006 by New York Review Books, and picked up recently in Britain by Vintage (who have a rather boring cover). This novel was originally published in 1965. The author died in 1994. Over the last few years translations have appeared in France, Italy, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, with more planned. Here’s a link to a BBC 4 broadcast talking about Stoner as well as Renata Adler’s two reissued novels (also from New York Review Books) and James Salter’s and Edith Pearlman’s recent books. (I hope the link works in UK too.)

That an “old” book should figure so prominently in a best books of the year list, seems to me to be a sort of vindication of what we all do (or would like to think we do) in publishing. Quality will out, if only we take the time to look for it. Vintage have put a lot of publicity behind it — also unusual for a reissued book, and I see that Waterstones had a custom hardback available at £12 for the Christmas market (and also named it their book of the year). I think I managed to persuade a group of giggling teenage girls to buy one when I was in the Cambridge branch recently.