The book industry's slow farewell
In an excellent long essay in The Nation entitled “The Long Goodbye? The Book Business and its Woes,” the legendary editor Elisabeth Sifton writes about the decline of the book industry from her perspective as a towering figure in the literary world over the last several decades. Sifton has edited dozens of books you’ve either read or heard of, including Don DeLillo’s White Noise and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, two of my favorites. Here’s part of her intro:
Do books still have their power? Over the past twenty years, as we’ve thrown ourselves eagerly into a joy ride on the Information Superhighway, we’ve been learning to read, and been reading, differently; and books aren’t necessarily where we start or end our education. The unprofitable chaos of the book business today indicates, among other things, that slow, almost invisible transformations as well as rapid helter-skelter ones have wrecked old reading habits (bad and good) and created new ones (ditto). In the cacophony of modern American commerce, we hear incoherent squeals of dying life-forms along with the triumphant braying and twittering of new human expression.