No doubt you’ve followed the talk about the American car manufacturers’ bailout, and the mortgage industry problems that have led to individuals needing/wanting government assistance (I say “no doubt” as one who would much rather read books than newspapers. I’m no news junkie, but if I know, then I’m assuming everyone is informed!).
I received an email from author Joshua Henkin (whose book Matrimony I reviewed at 5 Minutes for Mom) that I thought I’d share with you:
As many of you know, the book industry is in serious trouble. It was in trouble when economic times were good, and now that times are bad, things have gotten really precarious. Book sales across the industry are down as much as 40 percent, publishing houses are laying off people and cutting imprints, one big publishing house announced that it was no longer reading new manuscripts, and a major chain bookstore is on the brink of bankruptcy. Many of these problems have been a long time coming (the decline of newspapers and especially of book review sections has been a big blow, as has the closing down of many independent bookstores), but in recent months the problem has become especially acute.
I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but these are alarming times. What’s at stake is the future of books, and of reading culture. Although books will continue to be published (Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling will publish their next books), for everyone except a handful of bestselling authors, the future is far more uncertain. What’s at stake is the wealth and diversity of book culture. Many classics (books we read in our English classes in high school and college, books our children read or will read), simply wouldn’t be published by today’s standards and, if they were published and didn’t sell well immediately, they would be removed from the bookstore shelves.
This is why it’s so important that you buy books for the holidays. There’s a website dedicated to this enterprise, which you might want to check out (note from Jennifer — there are all sorts of great recommendations there), and publishing houses are running ad campaigns focused on holiday book-giving. You really can make a difference. A typical paperback novel costs less than fifteen dollars, far cheaper than a necklace or a sweater or dinner at a nice restaurant. Thanks for reading this, and have a happy and healthy holiday.
I have to admit, that before I started getting more free books (review copies) than I knew what to do with, I didn’t always buy books. I mean, I probably still bought more books than the average American, but I also utilized the library a fair bit (and still do), as well as borrowing from friends’ collections.
But now since I am able to enjoy so many wonderful books, I often end up supporting the author/publisher by buying the books I really enjoy for a friend. Since I’m buying fewer books overall, I’m able to follow through on my impulses to buy other books that interest me or my daughter. I once read somewhere to think of it as supporting the arts, and that makes sense to me.
I was glad that when this hit my inbox today, I knew that I had done my part. This month, I’ve already purchased six books for adult friends/family for gifts, and a book for a birthday gift for Amanda’s friend’s party last weekend. I will be purchasing a book gift card for another family member so that he can pick out the books that he will enjoy. There are books on my wishlist, and books will continue to be a go-to gift for me.
So, do you give books as gifts? Does thinking that your purchase could make a difference in books that are (or aren’t) published in the future make a difference?
Just to clarify after some of the comments, I didn’t mean to imply that libraries are the problem. I think that people probably just read less, to be honest, or read differently (everyone reads the same five books every year, which is one of the points Josh made in his essay about book clubs which I excerpted here last week).