How have books changed in the last 10 years?


July of 2004 seems like yesterday to me. I was writing my first book reviews for this newspaper. Now I’m writing my 520th Book Nook column. That’s 10 years’ worth.

I’ll take this moment to reflect upon my world of books. There have been fascinating developments. Here are a few things that made an impression on me over the last 10 years:

The impact of technology

The rise of electronic books, eBooks have become significant. People are reading books on all sorts of platforms:

Kindles and Nooks and tablets and smartphones. Ten years ago these technologies didn’t exist. I’m not a user of those new platforms, but I’m pleased that they are available. They open up many more opportunities for people to read books.

Self-publishing. Today just about anybody can publish a book. Do you know what I love about that? Anybody can publish a book. Do you know what I hate about it? Anyone can publish a book. Thousands of people are self-publishing books that never would have gotten published otherwise, and some of them are quite good. But most self-published books are not that good. I swim through an ocean of this stuff in search of books that could have merit. It is a lonely and often fruitless endeavor.

Amazon.com

Ten years ago Amazon was already a force in publishing, and today Amazon is the nine million pound gorilla in the room. Amazon sells the most books, which gives the online store enormous power. Amazon is a dominant force in eBooks with their Kindle eReaders.

A couple of years ago Amazon won a significant victory in a litigation involving eBooks. Publishers need Amazon. The publishing industry has been in turmoil since the financial crisis of 2008. Publishers are consolidating. The recent merger of Penguin and Random House, two of the largest US publishers, is one indication of the challenges that publishers are facing and the methods they are employing to survive.

With the collapse of the Borders bookstore chain and the difficulties that Barnes and Noble is facing the landscape for selling books is clearly in a state of flux. Amazon is now sitting in the catbird seat.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Ten years ago Sharon Rab, founder and chairwoman of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, asked me to get involved with her dream project, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

The group she organized wished to honor writers who promulgate peace.

They would present annual awards in two categories, fiction and nonfiction. I’m a marketing guy, so I wondered, How can we generate some buzz for these hitherto unknown awards? Then I hit upon it; we could create an additional award for lifetime achievement and that first prize should go to the eminent oral historian Studs Terkel. Studs was in his 90s then, the window of opportunity would be closing swiftly. I made these suggestions: Create this new award, and please give it to Studs. And so they did. The rest is history.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Friday at 1:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 11 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, go online to www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.



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