I finished The Everything Store by Brad Stone last week and it’s made me think more than I usually like to about the publishing industry. (By the way, if you are a bookseller and you have not read this book yet, you are doing yourself an extreme disservice. If you are a librarian who hasn’t read this book yet, you’re doing yourself a normal amount of disservice.)
One of the interesting takeaways I got from this book is just how little Jeff Bezos cares about the opinions of book industry people. I wonder, is this one of the reasons book people have such a visceral dislike for him? (I mean, aside from the dozen other good reasons.) In an industry where how other people regard you, your reputation, your overall status are pretty crucial to success—the stakes are so high because the pay is so low, that sort of thing—are we partially just annoyed that he doesn’t care how annoyed we are? And is it even more annoying is it to feel held in the palm of someone’s hand who doesn’t seem to remember you’re there? Or care either way?
Anyway, because this annoyance seems to rest on the fact that people regard him as so influential, and perhaps the most influential person in the book industry, that made me wonder about whether he was. I’m not being coy here—I really don’t know what I think about this. Or whether it’s even important. And I would like to hear what other people think. Who is it, hmmmm?
I’ve been home sick all day and between naps, finally finished The Luminaries. Have any of you guys finished it? It’s beautifully written and I was sucked up into the intricate dramas of New Zealand during the gold rush. Like the smartest of reality TV shows. I still am not that sure what the astrology stuff has to do with everything, but it suits.
But I’m torn about its length. Much like The Goldfinch, the length seems to be necessary to the story, but the beginning really drags. I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter coaching people through the first hundred pages, which is awesome but also a little alarming from the RA perspective. It’s absolutely a page-turner after the first section, but that takes 361 pages. 361 well-written, searching, thoughtful, clever pages! But not quick ones. It really picks up speed after that, though, and the last 150 pages fly.
I ultimately really liked it and am so glad I kept going with it, but am not sure I’d recommend the book across the board. I guess I could slip encouraging notes in every 25 pages in the library’s copies?
It absolutely deserves the prize, and any other ones folks want to hand it in addition, both in the sense that it is a fabulous, raucous, wrenching book, and in the sense that it is a wholly American one as well. The money quote from this year’s NBA ceremony seems to be Dr. Angelou’s assertion that “easy reading is damn hard writing,” and if this is so, McBride must have squeezed blood from untold stones to write this book. It flies by on wings and Onion’s voice echoes behind it. What a marvelous, marvelous read.
who’s read choire sicha’s book and can tell me if it’s fiction or non-fiction because i am becoming enraged by the phrase “post-fiction”
I don’t know what the hell post-fiction is, but I read it and thought that in addition to being a good book, it was narrative non-fiction. I am sure he took some liberty with the facts, but what non-fiction writer doesn’t?
The main factor contributing to the problem of book discovery is the sheer volume of books out there. Anyone with a computer can now self-publish a book. But because the number of books published every year is growing dramatically, especially in the digital space, authors have more competition than ever before. This ultimately leads to a book discovery problem for readers, and an audience discovery problem for authors.
I have been working with readers for years, and I have heard many, many, many complaints from them in re: books. I have heard them complain that they have too much to read, and I have heard them complain that their favorite authors don’t write fast enough, and I have heard them complain that the book they want to read is not in paperback yet, and I have heard them complain that they will never catch up with their book piles, and I have heard them complain that their spouse has asked them to stop buying books for six months, and I have heard them complain that certain famous authors haven’t been writing as well, and I have heard them complain that there is too much good TV right now and it’s basically impossible to balance reading time and TV time anymore. (I myself have also levied each of these complaints.)
What I do not hear them say is that they can’t find anything to read. Now, to be fair, I mostly deal with readers in bookstores, in libraries, and online, which are places designed for book discovery. But apps like the one discussed in this article are targeting that exact audience: people who are already readers. I am just not convinced discovery is a problem for these people. Is there some sort of survey I missed that indicated that half of people who purchased books in the last year said they were not sure how they’d figure out what to read next? Or is book discovery becoming a new way to say marketing in much the same way that all of a sudden we say signage instead of signs?
I don’t doubt that there are book discovery deserts in this country, places where people have real problems finding something to read: places where Internet connections are not guaranteed, places where the only place in town to buy books is the grocery store, places where budget cuts have left library hours in tatters, places where adult literacy rates make book discovery pointless. Further, there are just as many potential readers out there who feel completely disengaged with books and reading altogether, either for the reasons above, or because the industry is not interested in what they want to read; for whom discovery is not interesting, and the onus is on us to make it interesting again. Where are the apps for that?