Follow Harriet on Twitter
Stop the presses!
No, really! Please! There are too many books! So says the Atlantic’s Peter Osnos:
BookStats 2011,the annual comprehensive report just released by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, concluded that book sales, in terms of revenues and copies sold, have steadily increased in the period of 2008-2010. Overall, the report supports the belief that publishing is on an upswing, contrary to the widely held but incorrect assumption that competition from other forms of media was diminishing the venerable book world.
Hurrah for the venerable book world! But Osnos is wary, citing the ease of publishing (amid increasing career pressure to produce) as a recipe for encouraging work we don’t need. For instance:
The dream of reporters is that a big advance followed by a smash bestseller is the key to a successful career in journalism, a field that, in recent years, has been going through contraction and other agonies. Unfortunately, most books fall short of their authors’ fantasies for them. A major magazine piece or substantial news takeout is almost certain to reach a larger audience than a book on the same subject.
The result, he claims, is an overpublication of underqualified work—a literary kudzu that will squelch your sweet Aunt Mildred’s begonias in a frenzy of hyperpropagation. While laughing evilly. In other words, this is Bad News:
There is no way to limit the output of books. But the sense that there may be too many of them is a message to authors, agents, and publishers that they would do well to exercise judgment in choosing which books actually deserve to be written and supported. At the moment, however, the process is moving in the other direction: self-publishing as a business is booming, and Amazon, Apple, and Google, with their various devices and imprints, seem to be lowering the entry bar because these corporate behemoths see new publishing ventures as a source of revenue, pretty much regardless of quality.
Want to throw in your two cents? You don’t have to write a book about it! Join the conversation and read the full story, here.