Our Own Worst Electronic Enemies

I am off for July. So I’m running some favorite Andy Unedited blasts from the past. This was originally posted May 29, 2008.

When it comes to the digital future of publishing, we as publishers can be our own worst enemies.

Everyone seems to agree that electronic books will be a significant part of the world ahead. The only disagreement is how fast this new publishing environment will emerge and in what form. One of the major barriers to any form of digital publishing, however, are the permissions policies of publishers themselves.
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Publishing Is Like . . .

I am off for July. So I’m running some favorite Andy Unedited blasts from the past. This was originally posted May 12, 2008.

The key personnel gathered. “Listen,” said the publisher. “A publisher went out to publish. And as he published, some books fell on deaf ears. And the remaindering houses came and snatched up the excess stock at a fraction of its cost. Other books fell on hard-headed readers where the ideas were not able to root deeply in their minds. So as soon as the readers’ preconceived notions arose, the ideas from the book withered away. Other books fell among a huge glut of other new books and choked out the shelf-space, so the books were not seen. Other books fell into fertile minds and grew there, making a difference in the readers who in turn touched the lives of thirty, sixty or even a hundred other people.”
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Frankfurt Update

[Here Andy offers another dispatch from Germany.]

Sights. The first impression you get of the Frankfurt Book Fair is its sheer size. It spreads out over six buildings, each of which could easily hold four football fields. Many of the exhibit halls have three or four levels as well. The vastness of the space filled with so many publishing exhibits can be overwhelming. The wife of one publishing friend decided she was going to walk every level of every building. It took her six hours.

Smells. As I was entering Hall 8.0 where IVP’s booth is found I suddenly realized that the friendly, familiar smell in the air was that of books. It was like walking into a bookstore and being enveloped by that reassuring scent. It was gratifying to know there are so many books in the world that it could fill this and every hall.

Tastes. Of course the vendors offer coffee and German pastries. You can also find bratwurst and, yes, frankfurters!

Sounds. Like many huge trade shows, the drone of conversation that pervades the exhibit hall can be subtly wearing as the day goes on. It is surprising how much the noise, which you are barely aware of in the course of the day, can be so draining.

Touch. Shaking hands is repeated many times, greeting friends, colleagues and new publishers we may do business with. Yes, we are trying to interest others in translating or publishing our books, and us theirs. But it is a low-pressure exchange on both ends. Everyone knows it is in everyone´s best interest to get a good match between book and publisher and not force something on someone that won´t fit. The human element is still strong in the publishing culture.

And what about the train strike? We heard it was to be on for today. So last night three of us (IVP colleague Ellen Hsu, IVP-UK colleague Steve Carter and I) booked a taxi to take us from our hotel to the book fair this morning. We allowed an hour and a half for the extra rush hour traffic that the commuter rail strike would cause. It took us 15 minutes! So much for extra traffic. As it turned out, the strike had been delayed. It has been hard to know what exactly the news reports are saying when we don´t speak German and because even the Germans don´t seem to know what is going on. For now it looks like negotiations will be in process today and tomorrow, so we are not likely to see a strike during our stay. Not a disappointment.