The joke’s on whom?

Have you heard the one about the declining book business, and how nobody read any more?  

From where I sit, in the middle of BookLand, I hear it all the time —  business is bad, publishers are buying fewer titles for less money, and readers  — whoever they are anyway – are  not going into bookstores  anymore.  Yet, inside all this “common wisdom”  — a term I hate, not because it’s not common but because it’s rarely wisdom — is what I see all around me:  people reading and writing all the time, just not the way we old Methuselahs used to.  The number of self published books is way way up, and while — face it — most of those aren’t so terrific (everybody, and I mean everybody needs an editor) and if you haven’t noticed most people spend more time reading at their computers than even talking on the phone.  (Teenagers very much included) 

So that’s why when I read something like this story in the magazine I used to run — Publishers Weekly –   I feel sad, but not surprised.  The upshot:  people aren’t using gift cards in brick and mortar book stores because it’s so much easier to use giftcards onlin.  THe association that disseminates those cards is considering discontinuing them.

But here’s what I want to say, to booksellers and anybody else:  yes, it’s true that reading and book buying habits are changing and that the book world of tomorrow will not resemble the one today.  But narrative, stories, opinion are not going away — they’re just getting elecronified, vookified even.  And that to me can only be a good thing.

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