Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Richard Russo on the E-Book Threat

In acknowledgement of the threat that the rise in popularity of e-books is to the existence of brick and mortar bookstores,  Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo is refusing to allow his new book to be produced in e-book format.   Interventions, comprised of four distinct volumes sharing one slipcase, is what Russo calls his "tribute to the printed book."

The Telegraph (London) has the details and pictures of the new work:
Russo, talking to the Associated Press from his home in Maine, said that the rapid rise of e-books and online sales of printed books pose threats to bookstores, the publishing industry and the rise of new authors.
He said: "I encourage the idea of buying locally. I think this particular book is part of that groundswell of people who are beginning to understand that buying all of your books through online booksellers is like buying everything from online sellers, whether it's flat-screen TVs or flowers or whatever. I think there's a groundswell of people who are beginning to understand the implications of that. And that's the only justification I have for saying print books are unlikely to disappear."
 He doesn't want to be known solely as an Amazon or e-book basher and says that he reads books on his iPad when he's travelling. But he's keen on promoting the idea of diversity - of how books are published, how they're sold and how they're read.
"I'm fine with online booksellers," Russo added. "I just don't want them to control the world."
This might seem like a little thing, but those of us who share Mr. Russo's concerns very much appreciate his effort to make people aware of how their book-buying experience could be ruined in the not-so-distant future.  Book browsing online has to be one of the most frustrating and least rewarding experiences I have ever endured on such a regular basis.  It seems that all the books that ever made it to a publisher's reject pile are being published simultaneously - plus thousands that never even made it that far.  Not everyone should write a damn cheapens the real thing.


  1. Good for him. I bought two books today at one of my favorite booksellers two towns over.

  2. I agree..I just bought 2 "paper" books off of Barnes & though. LOL

  3. It is such a hugely difficult situation for a book buyer who isn't rich. I want to support my local independent, and in years past that's where I bought all my books. But when I seen a HC for $25 there that I can buy online for $14-16, I just can't do it. I do buy some there. But the bulk of my buying is online. I try to buy more from B&N because they still have 'real' stores. I actually bought a Nook, though I already had a Kindle, just to support a 'bricks and mortar' store. But still. I do feel guilt and sadness.
    This whole buying stuff online thing is just beginning to be understood; that of people going into their local store to look at an item, and then buying it online. In some places the big box stores that were the enemy to Main St. years ago, are now going the way of those little local stores. Many are closing. Our lives are becoming more and more virtual. We're in the midst of something we don't, and can't, really understand yet.
    Oh, and my ebook reading is strictly at bedtime for ease of handing the book. I had begun to have shoulder trouble from holding books! A sports injury for readers. :<)

  4. I don't do enough of that these days, James, and it's usually at Barnes & Noble when I do. The best indies are also inside the Houston loop and it's a hassle to go down there on weekends, so I usually talk myself out of it.

  5. I hear you, Kayo...but at least you bought printed books and not e-books that way. I think that has to help balance things a bit.

  6. I know what you mean, Nan. I'm retiring in six months and starting to think more about maximizing my limited spending power. This economy makes it tough to follow through on our good intentions to buy more from indie bookstore. I read e-books as a strictly as a matter of convenience sometimes...never my first choice, however.

  7. "It seems that all the books that ever made it to a publisher's reject pile are being published simultaneously" - More than anything else, I think this is the problem with the rise of eBooks. It's getting harder and harder to sift through the stacks to find the quality gems. It's not bad that people are writing books... the problem is that a lot of writers misunderstand the purpose of a good editor and thus by self-publishing their "book", they are essentially publishing a weak draft. Add to that the publishing industry's insistence on publishing familiar, uninspired, mediocre bestsellers-to-be and you've got a global issue...

  8. Biblio, I think you are exactly right. I am extremely frustrated in having to sift through all the garbage on Amazon and other sites (not to mention the dozen or so emails I get trying to get reviews on some very bad book ideas). I know a lot of really good stuff is falling through the crack because everyone can now be a publisher and the good stuff gets buried by the bad stuff. Editors and proof readers everywhere must be feeling pretty vindicated about now...they are more important than anyone ever gave them credit for being.