One of the books and movies that was rammed down the throats of the school children of Greenwich Connecticut in it’s Oh so Progressive schools was Lord of The Flies. Like a lot of books from the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies that we were exposed to, it was the kind of thing that made you want to barf, let alone stop reading.
This is the second of my series of posts looking at book covers. This time, we cover Dust Jackets from about 1920 or so, to about 1990 or so. The book selling industry went through a lot of changes as the country did and so did books. So, w go from the Washington sguare book shop to the big box stores of today and the books inside them.
Note: the books chosen are chosen because of the way that the covers were done, not the content of the actual books. So there may be examples of things like Fabian Socialism. That does not mean that I care about the book.
Sarah Hoyt has another blog post about the flaws of the traditional publishing industry and how it resembles the publishing in Portugal, which for the traditional publishing industry, is not a good thing.
When The Walls Fell
The strange part is that while late 1970’s Portuagal was a dark age for reading, here in the US, we were at the end of a golden age. When I was a teenager, Waldenbooks had become a presence all over the place and I discovered Jim baen and Galaxy where every magazine had an ad for a little store that sold nothing but science fiction in New York, a train ride away. I think through the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s, I averaged three books a week. All good things must come to an end and in the 1990’s they did. There were a lot of reasons, but I think that the publishing industry became too corporate and too risk adverse.
A while back I was researching the New Haven Railroad’s Electrification project from the early 20th Century. One of the key references was a book written by a man named William Spencer Murray. The only copy that I could find in the world was in Yale University’s library.
After I started work at my last job, I was able through connections to obtain the book. The last time the book had been taken out was in the 1970’s. This book and it’s material have not shown up in the internet and like many other subject may never show up in the general knowledge base at all. With the passage of time, if we are not careful, something crucial may be lost. Yet libraries seem to be determined to diminish there holdings to become more “relevant.”
I think that the problems started with the homeless activism back in the late 1970’s. The people that had been released onto the streets by some well meaning advocates had become an epidemic and were seen by many as victims of the ills of society. They were victims, but of poor government choices. In any case there they were, looking for a warm public space and there were the libraries. So they started to congregate there and that drove people away.
Then there were the computers that were going to change everything. Libraries started to become places where there were banks of computers rather than books. The idea of a media center became more Important than the library’s function to store and dispense knowledge. And the books started to go. Especially the slow circulators, like the Murray book.
The problem with that is that old books have a different perspective than the perspective that we have today. Sometimes its valuable to just be able to go and find the treasures that may exist in a library. There’s also the problem of what happens when something is not digitized or just not digitized well. Any search in Google books cam be frustrating because the scanning was done rapidly, the text can be hard to read and all to often important fold outs are scanned in folded form or gone all together. I can’t count the number of time that I wanted the real book in my hands.
Finally, when a library loses it’s real purpose, we all lose. When I was growing up, the library was a special place, a place where I could go treasure hunting and get away from a world that somehow, I just didn’t fit into much of the time. It was a place where I could explore things that I couldn’t reach. And I could bring those treasures home and enjoy them. The library was where I discovered science fiction and Hornblower. Where I found a kid winning a space suit in a contest and pirates on the Spanish Main. Where I was scared and enlightened. Makerspaces are wonderful things and we need them, but the library should be a place where we go to discover, not a hobby space. We’ve lost our way somehow.
I wasn’t going to write about SF this week, but this showed up. Vox posted some commentary about the recent BookExpo in NYC, Apparently the convention is shrinking.
Recently I did a couple of posts about self publishing.
There’s been a ton of good stuff lately on building a web platform. Right now, I suspect that for anybody who does anything remotely creative knowing how to create and build a presence on the web is going to be essential.
I posted recently about the Author who compared self publishing to; “I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.”
The other day Larry posted this excellent Fisking that he did with his usual wit and brutal pen. The post from Huffpo truly deserved it.
I posted about Hachette trying to get their advance back, or at least part of it. Included in the lawsuit filing was the publishing contract. To say the contract was bad for the author, is putting it mildly. Kristine Rusch has looked into it in far more detail than I can, not being a contract professional. Here’s her post. I’m not going to quote from it because you should read everything she said. Then read the comments.
Every cliquish group has to have a prat. You know what they are like. They are the ones who go to the extra effort to make sure everybody knows that he is aligned with the “right people” by constantly maligning and disparaging the “wrong people” In this case, the Puppy Kicker’s biggest prat is Damien Walter. Now there has been a lot of competition for Puppy Kicker biggest prat, but through and through Damien has come through in his columns in the Guardian. His latest is no exception.