If there is one thing you can count on with the book business, it is that it is always one last dying gasp away from The End. Or so I’ve been told, by reliable sources, since I was 14 years old. I’m not 14 anymore (snarf), but the book business still hasn’t managed to die.
It’s not from lack of trying. Some days I think publishers and bookstores (never writers, we’re just innocent bystanders, see) are competing with the Democrats to see who can lose the most friends and patrons in the shortest period of time. But it’s the damnedest thing: People seem to continue to like good stories, no matter how hard we might make it for them to get them. I know BLB does. He got a book from his Aunt Jen in NY for his birthday that is a cut-out illustrated guide to New York City. He let me read it to him straight a few times, then noticed a tiny still of King Kong hanging off the Empire State Building pictured on the back cover and rewrote the story starring a gorilla. (Gorilla rides red bus! Gorilla watch TV-building! Gorilla on big boat! Gorilla climbs lady statue!) Try telling this guy that books are dead.
Maybe I’m a fool, but I think BLB will buy and read books in some form for his entire life. And sometimes people will get paid to write those books, and other people will get paid to edit them, market them, and deliver them to him. I hope there are still bookstores when he’s ready to do his own book selecting, but maybe he’ll just print an e-reader out on his 3-D printer and download them to that. That would be pretty cool in its own right.
There’s a line in one of his and my favorite books, On The Night You Were Born, that reads “So whenever you doubt just how special you are and you wonder who loves you, how much and how far, listen for geese honking high in the sky. (They’re singing a song to remember you by.)”
That’s what I think of when I hear people foretelling the impending doom of the business I’ve been lucky to spend my adult life working in.
Whenever you doubt, Books, just how special you are,
Listen for toddlers shouting “AGAIN!” after Where the Wild Things Are.
It’s not terribly profound, to give up the nay-saying, nor is it forward-thinking or cool or savvy to just shrug and say, “Readers will read somehow.” But when I wonder what the future holds for this business, I trust the readers, because we are everywhere and are making new ones every day. And that trust–that blind trust–makes me, at least, feel a lot better.