Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's good for me is good for you

Yes, what's good for the publishing industry is also good for us. How could we be so stupid and not know this?
Many would argue that the efflorescence of new publishing that Amazon has encouraged can only be a good thing, that it enriches cultural diversity and expands choice. But that picture is not so clear: a number of studies have shown that when people are offered a narrower range of options, their selections are likely to be more diverse than if they are presented with a number of choices so vast as to be overwhelming. In this situation people often respond by retreating into the security of what they already know.


At the Book Expo in New York City, Jonathan Galassi, head of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, spoke for many in the business when he said there is something "radically wrong" with the way market determinations have caused the value of books to plummet. He's right: a healthy publishing industry would ensure that skilled authors are recompensed fairly for their work, that selection by trusted and well-resourced editors reduces endless variety to meaningful choice and that ideas and artistry are as important as algorithms and price points in deciding what is sold.
I always love how a "we are under attack and need to survive" argument is never made, instead the argument becomes -- without any self-consciousness whatsoever -- "we are under attack and our demise will result in the decline of civilization and therefore bad for EVERYONE."

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