Elisabeth Sifton, senior vice president of the literary agency Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War has written a long, thoughtful and discouraging essay on the future of books for The Nation called The Long Goodbye? The Book Business and its Woes.
She laments, and rightly so, the consolidation of trade publishing into profit driven conglomerates who have no interest in books, caused in large part by Reagan’s passion for deregulation. She despairs because we’ve lost most of our independent bookstores and finds the move toward so much vulgarity in publishing horrible. Sifton doesn’t hold much hope if any for the success of books on the internet, largely because the ‘net is driven by profit only.
And if all that weren’t bad enough, she does a credible job explaining in her essay why this loss of books is bad, really bad for our society because it stifles the distribution of ideas, all sorts of ideas.
I wish I didn’t agree with her, but I’m afraid she’s more right than wrong.
Of course, I tend to be optimistic even in the face of contrary evidence. I’m still hopeful that the ‘net will somehow help bring people and ideas together. Given the way search works I don’t yet see how the ‘net will help us not balkanize ourselves even more than we are, but when I realize my blog is read in well over 100 countries, hope springs.
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