Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Quarterly Conversation editorial: "Demise of Publishing"

The Quarterly Conversation produces very intelligent and wide-ranging commentary on literature--it's required reading, along with Rain Taxi and Bookslut.

TQC's issue number 16 just came out, but I am still mulling the excellent note from the editors in issue number 15: "On the Demise of Publishing, Reading and Everything Else." They offer the most succinct yet nuanced overview of The State of Letters that I have seen. Here's their conclusion:

"As with previous predictions of the demise of reading, it’s probably too early to tell. Reading on the Rise [L & C: the recent NEA survey] might be indicating a renewed interest in reading, or it might be statistical noise. Wait until 2014. Still, with Amazon, Sony, and other interested parties battling to sell you an ebook reader, with Google courting lawsuits in a headlong rush to digitize the world’s great treasure trove of books, and with American publishers churning out something on the order of 200,000 new titles in 2008, reading seems to not be in the perilous straits that some melancholics might believe."

Well said indeed!

For longer treatments of the same theme, see Geoffrey Nunberg (ed.), The Future of the Book and Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies. Related: Nicholas Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," (Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2008), Jamais Cascio, "Get Smarter (Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2009). The long view: Robert Darnton, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Roger Chartier and Alberto Manguel on the history of publishing and reading.

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