Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Blogger, Dan Cabrera: Don’t Be Spooked by Scary Book News

Halloween is just around the corner, and if that doesn’t raise the hairs on the back of your neck then maybe the constant stream of terrifying news about the publishing industry will chill you to the bone. Just look around. You can’t miss stories bemoaning the sad state of book affairs. Borders appears on the verge of annihilation, Barnes & Noble is in constant turmoil, and eBooks aren’t even safe! It’s enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.

While publishing insiders have been forecasting doom and gloom for some time (and to be fair, everyone—not just the book industry—has been in dire straits recently), there is always some good news to be had. Sure, maybe the news isn’t as sweet as a candy apple, but it’s good news nonetheless. Borders is opening temporary stores for the holidays! Book sales are up overall from last year! And for even more hope, just check out this article that ran in USA Today this week.

The article lists five myths leading people to believe that traditional books, especially big publishing houses, are in their death throes. Most of the fallacies focus on the surging popularity of eBooks and their supposed inevitable dominance over print books. Even self e-publishing is “threatening” to take down print. However, USA Today's Myth No. 1 explains why this isn’t at all true:

Myth No. 1. Publishers are merely printers. That would be news to companies like ours, which don't even operate their own printing presses. Publishers today are in the content business. We develop it; we design it; and we deliver it however our readers want it.

Ah, yes. Content is king. Publishers and editors not only make the books, they make sure those books are worth reading, that they illuminate, educate, entertain. One of the novelties of eBooks means that now anyone can be an author. In fact, Barnes & Noble just introduced a new program that allows anyone with an Internet connection to upload their latest masterpiece, as the Amazon Kindle store currently does. But just because you can write a book doesn’t mean you should.

Publishing houses help filter through all of the noise to bring readers the best of the best. And yes, this may change in the future as self-publishing becomes more sophisticated. And sure, not all books released by publishing companies are exactly “high art.” But as the USA Today article points out, “At every stage of the editorial process, publishers partner with their authors as creative consultants, editors and designers.” After all, they’re professionals for a reason.

So fear not, faithful reader. We may not be out of the woods just yet, but that’s no reason to cower and let the ghouls and goblins run amok. We can do with a scare every now and then, especially when in the end of the day, we always get to go home and curl up with a piece of candy and a good book. Well, unless you’re diabetic.

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