Friday, March 11, 2011

Is the Book Good? How Many Copies Did It Sell?

Interesting observation today in an article in The New Republic which contemplates the "end of book stores" and their role as quality gatekeeper. Writer Nicole Krauss asks:

Why does The New York Times Book Review, one of the last book-review sections of a national newspaper left in this country, dedicate six pages that might otherwise be given over to reflection on books to their commercial ranking instead?

If between the lines of those new best-seller lists is an obituary for bookstores, there is also one for The New York Times Book Review itself: Soon all that might be left of it is a bundle of best-seller lists. It is not the notion of a best-seller list that rankles: Commerce is a part of literary life, and the commercial distinction of a serious book—not everything that sells well is dross—lifts the spirits and the bottom lines of publishers and writers. But six pages of Dow Jones-like charts? Why this obsession with the money side, even while everyone agrees that salability has little relationship to quality? The independent spirit of the bookstore is, at its best, a much-needed bulwark against this obsession.

Yes, the technology is real, and, yes, e-books will exist—but why to the exclusion of books and bookstores? Is convenience really the highest American value?

Oh and by the way, there was an article on Broke is Beautiful and my book signing event at the Baldwin Public Library in the Birmingham Patch today.