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).
Managing Editor Jennifer Donovan is a contributing editor at 5 Minutes for Mom. She blogs at Snapshot about daily life with her tween daughter and preschool son.
My family has always given books as gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and just because.
I had not considered that book sales were so low. I too use my local library often…but my husband and I do still purchase books as well…maybe that’s why I wasn’t aware of it. Our book buying habits are the same as they’ve always been.
Thanks for sharing this information!
I am giving books this year and I do every year. I always buy my books and honestly am surprised at reading this.
While I knew more people were going to the library, I didn’t realize it was a huge issue.
Carrie, Reading to Know says
I, like you, am going out and buying copies of the books that I really enjoyed reviewing in order to give them as gifts. (Particularly The Mysterious Benedit Society.)
Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I was kinda curious about that.
Jennifer (5 Minutes for Books) says
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 in the On Reading column).
I did my part this Christmas! I am giving books to my mom, two nieces, and a nephew.
I was thinking about this the other day. I have always gone to the library, but I bet many more people are using the library right now if money is tight. And while the library is a wonderful resource, I am sure this makes it much more difficult for publishing houses!
It’s all because I made a commitment not to buy any books for myself in 2008. 😉 I did spend gift cards, though.
I bought several books for my daughter for Christmas…so I’m glad I was able to help the industry & not break my commitment. For me, buying books I wasn’t getting around to reading had gotten way out of hand. Thus, the book fast. I will go back to buying books in 2009, but will be more particular about what I buy.
Mary Beth (Cats, Books, Life is Good) says
In our family, finding a huge pile of books under the tree is one of the best gifts. I much prefer to buy my books rather than borrow them from the library. I like being able to put a hand on a book any time day or night:) Having just done the book shopping with my mom for the holidays, I can honestly say, we’ve contributed heavily. However, we shop in the mega-stores (Borders, Barnes & Noble) and I feel sorry for the independent booksellers because they are going to be the ones hardest hit. We don’t have any around us, otherwise we’d do our shopping there.
Jen E says
I’m giving one book this year, but definitely not as many as I usually do – I HAVE been telling people to my son books before toys this year… But if I had known the industry was suffering like this I’d have bought more books for sure – unfortunately my shopping is done and I don’t think overspending will help! 😛
Katrina (Callapidder Days) says
I’m doing my best to help the book industry. 🙂 Giving books for Christmas, giving books to the kids and friends, and maybe one or two for me, too…
I’ve always enjoyed giving books for the holidays. Unfortunately when I moved to a different country from my extended family it put a bit of a damper on that. Still, this year I got some deals through my own book business that were so hard to turn down that I purchased books for 7 nieces and nephews, packed them in a large flat rate priority mail box, and spent $45 to mail them to the UK.
The book industry seems to me a tricky thing. It’s so much driven by the latest and greatest trend thing these days. In particular the children’s books available often don’t have a lot in the way of educational content. Interestingly Educational Development Corporation (EDC), the publisher of Usborne books in the USA, on December 1st announced both a special dividend for shareholders and an acquisition. EDC report a strong cash position and no debt.
I bought one or two books for everyone on my list (and that’s all) and spent a lot less this year overall. I think books are the best gifts…there are even books for non-readers.
Just as clarification..libraries are essential to the industry as well because libraries buy A LOT of books. I know you weren’t saying they were the problem Jennifer, but I think people sometimes don’t realize that even using your library is a way of supporting the book industry. The library closings and independent bookstore closings are devastating overall to the culture of reading.