Old Forms and New Directions

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 at 8:44 am
Johannes Gutenberg

Image via Wikipedia

Some 570 years or so after Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type — giving birth to modern printing — people are still buying books.

And while the technology has improved somewhat over the centuries, the basic concept is the same — books are printed (though in numbers that probably would have staggered Gutenberg’s mind) and people buy them.

Numbers released last week by Publisher’s Weekly show this is still the case.

It was the recap of the best sellers of 2009 and it showed that in this age of distraction, with movies, television, video games and life moving at a seemingly ever-increasing rate, people are still going to the store (or their computer) and ordering books.

Presumably, some of the books are also actually read.

Dan Brown followed up the monumental success of The Da Vinci Code with the monumental success of The Lost Symbol, selling more than 5.5 million copies in hardcover to make it the best selling novel of 2009. While there aren’t exact numbers around, it does appear that he sold more copies than the next few books on the list combined.

As expected, the list is filled with the familiar named authors of blockbusters (John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Stephen King), and the usual group of literary best-sellers such as Barbara Kingsolver, Philippa Gregory, EL Doctorow and John Irving.

What’s really interesting about the list — as the LA Times pointed out — is that this is the last year it won’t include ebooks, which raises the possibility that next year a classic like Alice in Wonderland could make an appearance.

Which sort of leads to the purpose of this blog’s new direction — to look at the business and culture of print from the “death” of newspapers to the future of books. It will mix news of how and what we read with occasional reviews and stories about interesting new projects and people moving in new directions.

There’s been a lot of talk about how ebooks will change the way we read and write and while things like the Kindle and IPad will make a difference — it remains to be seen how big and how soon.

It does seem, however, that while ebooks have actually been around for almost 40 years, that we are appoaching a tipping point of sorts.

The Guardian pointed out that last year was the first time that Amazon sold more ebooks than printed books.

What changes are coming up? How will we be reading? Who will be writing? Stay tuned.

  1. Whether the topic is the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the predatory practices of health insurers and pharmaceutical corporations, the shortcomings of the criminal justice system–you fill in the blanks here–some of the most vital journalism arrives in book form.

    A small-circulation magazine called Nieman Reports, a quarterly emanating from a journalism foundation at Harvard University, has been especially thoughtful about covering books as journalism.

    I presume, Colin, you will write about more than investigative non-fiction books; I also presume you won’t ignore that realm.

    Whatever you write about books circa 2010 and beyond, I look forward to reading.

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