A reader who goes by the name “Egbert” had this comeback to yesterday’s criticisms of the latest “end of book publishing” hoopla:
“…so, we should all not worry about the fate of Borders, or how ebooks will ultimately effect print runs on books, or any other number of issues brought up in that article, cause you and your cronies have fixated on the authors named in the story?”
(1) As a historical exercise, name a retail segment in which manufacturers were brought to ruin by the financial failures of third-party vendors, prompting the industry’s subsequent collapse. As an alternative, you could name a retail segment in which, following the removal of a major vendor from the market, other vendors were completely unable to capitalize on the newly available market share, and the market subsequently collapsed.
(2) The fate of printed books, whatever it may be, is not the same thing as the fate of the publishing industry—or at least it doesn’t have to be.
(3) Boris Kachka‘s the one who elevated the drifting of Tom Wolfe and Richard Ford to levels of oracular significance, so it’s funny to see other people accused of “fixating” on something that is quite heavily weighted in the original article.
Look, nobody’s arguing that the publishing industry is going to stay the way it is, or that it can’t benefit from the major revamping that’s on the way. But that’s hardly the same thing as saying we’re at “the end,” and it does the cogent observations scattered throughout Kachka’s article a disservice to lump them into such a sensationalist worldview. Also, it’s worth remembering that the publishing industry’s sun does not rise and fall on less than a dozen buildings scattered around Manhattan, or who does or does not have an office in one of those buildings on any given day.