Who Will Stand Up for Books as Books?

orig image theamazingworldofpshychiatry.wordpress.comThe word around the blogosphere assumes that publishers are angry about the state of the book marketplace because their superannuated business model is about to be blown away, and that’s a good thing because that old model makes books too expensive, excludes too many fine authors, and makes too much money for greedy owners. Most of this sounds like sour grapes, or misinformation, or as I pointed out in a previous blog, a way for dot-com start-ups to make money.

But what’s really driving publishers crazy is the fact that the big movers and shakers in the book business at the moment—Amazon, Apple, and now here comes Microsoft—are not really in the book business at all. Amazon uses books as a loss leader to sell more expensive things. Apple really cares about electronic devices. Microsoft wants to make Windows an eBook reader operating system. The publishing industry is being batted around like a shuttlecock by players who don’t much care about, or even care for, books. Who is standing up for the book itself?

While it is true that in terms of sales, each of these companies generate more than the total of all of the book publishing conducted on our planet, aren’t books important enough in their own right to be the focus of an industry? Aren’t we courting cultural disaster if books become just a means of selling something else? Is economic power the only legitimate measure of everything?

Despite all the cynical commentary on many blogs, publishing professionals are not just worried about keeping their jobs. Most of them care deeply about books and are easily talented enough to make a better living doing almost anything else. Serious publishers, distributors, editors, designers, booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, author agents: these highly trained specialists bring an enormous amount of expertise to the making and distribution of good books. People who really know and care about books should be in charge of the business of books.

Curt Matthews
CEO, IPG/Chicago Review Press, Incorporated

Curt Matthews is the founder and CEO of Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, which is the parent company of Chicago Review Press and of Independent Publishers Group (IPG), the first independent press distributor and now the second largest. Curt has served on the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) board and has also served as its president.

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4 thoughts on “Who Will Stand Up for Books as Books?

  1. I’m sorry, I can’t agree with this. As a writer trying to get published, I gave up on that industry long ago, and went to e-books as a way to get my work out there on my terms. In my opinion, the publishing industry has been run into the ground by the very people that work in it.

    Not trying to troll you, I swear. Just providing an opinion. I would very much like to hear what you think about my view.

  2. kathy says:

    As a person who owns a book store and who also has self published and epublished, I think writers need to understand that self publishing and epublishing are roughly the equivalent of posting a music video from your pc camera on Youtube. It is largely for your own satisfaction. The machine behind traditional publishing is what allows large groups of people to have access to your work. So, if you are publishing for the sake of your art and for your own satisfaction and contentment, then self publishing is certainly an option, but its an expensive one, so you might want to fore go print altogether and epublish only.

    • Your analogy between self-publishing and posting a video on YouTube is exactly right. Of course a few self-published titles will have good sales, but for each of those, there will be many thousands that disappear without a trace. The e-vanity publishers make wildly inflated claims, and almost all of the would-be authors seduced by these “publishers” will be sadly disappointed.

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