Against all odds printed books thrive

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The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

When Amazon introduced the Kindle e-reader in 2007 it looked like the writing was on the wall for printed books.

Just as the iPod had decimated CD sales when launched by Apple six years earlier, it looked certain that the Kindle would do the same to physical book sales.

All the signs were there. How could bulky paper books possibly compete with a lightweight device that could store a whole bookcase?

And the Kindle was a huge success. Sales of e-books grew from near zero to around a third of all book sales in just a few years. Book publishers were convinced this trend would continue. Bookshops, already under pressure from the sale of physical books online, started to close in greater numbers, including many much loved independent stores.

But now something strange is happening. E-book sales have flatlined. Physical book sales are growing again. It turns out the printed book, with a history stretching back many hundreds of years, is a resilient old thing.

Some people have drawn parallels with the resurgence of vinyl records, which are growing in sales too. But this is from a very low base, and still accounts for only 3% of the UK music market. It is also not happening at the expense of music streaming, which continues to explode in popularity.

And there is another difference. Once music is playing it is in the air. A book, however, is something that you hold in your hands. Paper is tactile. It has weight.

Books are often beautifully made, from the choice of paper stock and binding to the typography and graphics. A book can be something you admire as an object before you have read a single word.

And when you do start to read there are no distractions. No internet browser or Facebook app.

Like most children my two young sons would probably spend all day every day playing on an iPad if only they were allowed, and yet surprisingly they have never once asked to swap a bedtime story in print for one on a screen.

For all these reasons and more it felt good to give and receive a bunch of books this Christmas.

Read the original article here.

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Against all odds printed books thrive

“The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines”

I really enjoyed this brief article by John Herrman on why comments are a lost cause for publishers:

The online publishing narrative of the last few years, crudely, is this: Social networks are increasingly where people find things to read; people use social networks most often on their phones. It follows, then, that an increasing number—on some sites, a majority—of readers are coming to articlesthrough comments, which command them to click on or tap all manner of internet objects, including but not limited to acts of journalism. Reading news on Facebook is like reading the old internet upside down and inside out; it’s sort of like an infinite scrolling front page composed exclusively of reader comments, which are responsible for leading you, backwards, to the articles they reference. The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines. They also happen to be your friends.

This means that publishers are not really in a position to solve the problem of comments—it’s the commenters deciding, day in and day out and with no sense of duty or preciousness, what is to be done with news. (It is to be ignored, mostly.) The comments this project refers to, the ones it’s trying to save, are comments in an older sense; words tacked onto the side or bottom of stories written by professionals for very popular websites, written for everybody and nobody at once.

“The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines”

Introducing Galley Beggar Press

A good friend of mine, the author and Guardian writer Sam Jordison, has co-founded a new publishing company, Galley Beggar Press. Here’s how they explain their goals:

Our aim is to be an old fashioned publisher for the 21st Century.

Old fashioned because we believe in the beauty of books and the printed word, in the importance of nurturing authors and paying serious attention to editing, and in the vital importance of art as well as commerce.

21st Century, not just because that’s where we are, but because we also believe in the fantastic potential of ebooks to reach new audiences, to spread our writers’ precious words around the world and to revive and revitalise books that would otherwise either be out of print or lost on the backlist.

Between us, in our lines of work, we come across the same puzzle on a near daily basis; why are so many great books not getting published and why are so many great books that have been published being neglected and so forgotten. We decided to help try to redress the balance.

They’ve already published a book to great reviewsthe White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon Gough, and they’ve got a number of other books in the works, including an ebook re-release of My Elvis Blackout by Simon Crump, and a reissue of the lost American classic Cutter And Bone by Newton Thornberg, which was the direct inspiration for The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.

Take a look here.

Introducing Galley Beggar Press