The New Yorker's Ian Crouch
is struck forcefully by how quickly royal engagement books have been
appearing. The first, he marvels, was "sent to print by HarperCollins
just three days after the news broke." What is driving this insanity?
Crouch is particularly perplexed by the statement of HarperCollins's
senior non-fiction editor when explaining the speed:
and magazines have been doing it for centuries--but if book publishers
are going to remain relevant we have to be able to respond in the same
way, and give consumers what they want when they want it.
WHY THIS MAY NOT EVEN MAKE SENSE FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT
a statement for a book-lover to unpack. Crouch explores the implications
of this statement and explains why he think the editor is mistaken.
Here are his key points (we highly recommend reading the full thing):
ON THE IDEA THAT BOOKS NEED TO KEEP UP WITH NEWSPAPERS TO STAY RELEVANT
WHY BOOKS' RELEVANCE IS NOT ABOUT SPEED
Newspapers and magazines have been
doing all sorts of things for centuries that books haven't, and it
seems, shouldn't be expected to do: breaking news, offering quick,
timely analysis, selling ad space, starting fires. Just as we'd be
startled to find a dissertation on the Presidency of Herbert Hoover in
the Sunday Times, so should we be wary of spending twenty or thirty bucks on a book written, in part at least, and published three days after the events it chronicles took place.
order to "remain relevant," books need to be less like the daily
paper--or like texts, tweets, Facebook status updates, blogs,
charticles, infographics--and more like their better selves, which is
to say thoughtful, well-researched, accurate. ... All this gleeful
haste from publishers robs books of their truly relevant qualities:
perspective and wisdom nurtured by time. Books should be polished and
the customer what they want is a reasonable goal for any business. But
what customers are we talking about here? And is this what they, or
anyone, even want? Books are not simply "content delivery devices,"
useful only to fork information onto an ever growing pile. Perhaps this
speed-first idea of publishing says less about what all books need to
do, but rather, is a tacit acknowledgment of the disposable quality of
this kind of quick-hit moneymaker. Regardless, we should worry about
more than just the bottom line if securing future for publishing means
mastering the fast and furious con job of the "media cycle."
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