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So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an…

So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance

by Gabriel Zaid

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
An interesting take (this is more a large essay rather than a true full piece of work) on books, the publishing industry, and their future. Specifically in regards to over-publishing, over-production, and slightly touching on the future insofar as technology is involved (eBooks, Kindles, etc.).

A bit dated but not too much (read: 2002), it does figure and factor in Amazon, eBooks, internet, etc. The hypertextual ideas it talks about at the end is basically Wikipedia which is what it never really touches upon.

The work does touch upon the pure avalanche of novels being published each year and our inability to read even 1/5000th of it all. I often think about that now; where if I was born say 50 years ago, I'd never have gotten to read 99.9% of what I've read now (sure, some of the classics like Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Walt Whitman, etc, I could; but the point stands).

And to think 100 years from now, just how many MORE pieces of work there will be; and this can then even be expanded to include all media (ie. TV, Movies, artwork, even YouTube channels, etc.). Each successive generation will have more and more pieces of work to read/watch/review etc than the generation before it. Exponentially. I often think about all of the books I won't be able to read because they'll be written AFTER my death, and even the books already written DURING my lifetime that I'll never get the time to read.

Who knows, maybe someday there will be a way to read it all? One can only hope. ( )
  BenKline | May 31, 2017 |
A slim volume whose existence is ironic. Yes, there are too many books, though I'll never tire of reading them, or reading about them if my purchase of this text is anything to go by. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
Se m'han fet curts aquests assaigs amb cert to irònic sobre el llibre, el món editorial, els costums entorn de la lectura, les llibreries... Eliminaria la part més tècnica del llibre, penso que hi ha un excés d'estadístiques, sobretot al darrer assaig "Precio y tiraje óptimo de libros". L'interès que em desperten alguns articles és inversament proporcional a la resta (de fet la meitat m'agraden molt i l'altra meitat els eliminaria del llibre). "La medida de la lectura no debe ser el número de libros leídos, sino el estado en que nos dejan. ¿Qué demonios importa si uno es culto, está al día o ha leído todos los libros? Lo que importa es cómo se anda, cómo se ve, cómo se actúa, después de leer. Si la calle y las nubes y la existencia de los otros tienen algo que decirnos. Si leer nos hace, físicamente, más reales." ( )
  maidietallibres | Feb 5, 2014 |
Gabriel Zaid’s slim book on the status of reading and publishing is as pertinent, if not even more pertinent, today as when it was published in 2003. Much of what the author predicted, particularly in regard to e-books and the evolution of the publishing business model, is now coming to pass. His thoughts make me realize how oblivious I was nine years ago to most of what was just around the corner for publishers – and how the changes would affect me, a dedicated reader, personally.

The aptly titled essays collected in So Many Books cover a variety of book-related topics, everything from the overwhelming number of titles published each year, to the search for each book’s specific/perfect readers, to why a book can sell relatively few copies but still turn a nice profit…and many others.
For instance, in “Some Questions about the Circulation of Books,” a piece I found particularly interesting, Zaid argues that it is not necessary or even desirable for all books to sell a million copies. What is important, he says, is that books find their “natural readership – the readership they might have in a perfect world where distribution was flawless and price not an issue, giving every interested reader the opportunity to read them.” Ironically, he points out, that a big problem in finding that readership is that “college graduates are more interested in publishing books than reading them.” I suspect this observation is truer today than ever before.

Gabriel Zaid is, if anything, very quotable. While reading So Many Books, I found myself marking sentence after sentence as something I wanted to revisit later.

Consider here a few of the ones I believe give an accurate feel for the book’s tone:

“…it isn’t easy to reach thirty thousand readers. Not because the lower price is still too high, but for a reason we prefer to ignore: the majority of titles published are of no interest to thirty thousand people – you couldn’t give away that many copies.” –“Complaining about Babel”

“Every private library is a reading plan…Having unread books on display is like writing checks when you have no money in the bank – a way of deceiving your guests.” –“An Embarrassment of Books”

“…the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.” –“An Embarrassment of Books”

“Given the rapid changes in hardware and software, digital texts from just a few years ago may be harder to preserve and read than books printed centuries ago, or thousand-year-old manuscripts.” –“In Search of the Reader”

“…there are many practical ways in which the traditional book is superior. On the most basic level, there is no need to have a machine running in front of you, with the text up on the screen. This practical advantage, and many others (portability, the lesser likelihood of theft, the impossibility of lending a book to a friend without the proper reading device, author’s rights) tend to be ignored in futuristic fantasies, but they influence the decisions readers make.” – “In Search of the Reader”

These are representative of the thoughts and arguments Zaid presents in So Many Books – only a few of which have become even a tiny bit dated during the last nine years. Gabriel Zaid is passionate about books and the people who read them – and he will find his “natural readership” in the thousands of avid readers who always manage to find and devour books about books. ( )
1 vote SamSattler | May 22, 2012 |
I found this a fascinating and thought-provoking book. Almost every page presented me with a new idea or a different perspective on reading or publishing. ( )
  janglen | Feb 10, 2012 |
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The reading of books is growing arithmetically; the writing of books is growing exponentially.
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"Reading liberates the reader and transports him from his book to a reading of himself and all of life. It leads him to participate in conversations, and in some cases to arrange them . . . It could even be said that to publish a book is to insert it into the middle of a conversation." (from So Many Books)

Join the conversation! In So Many Books, Gabriel Zaid offers his observations on the literary condition: a highly original analysis of the predicament that readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and teachers find themselves in today--when there are simply more books than any of us can contemplate.

"...Zaid traces the preoccupation with reading back through Dr. Johnson, Seneca, and even the Bible ('Of making many books there is no end'). He emerges as a playful celebrant of literary proliferation, noting that there is a new book published every thirty seconds, and optimistically points out that publishers who moan about low sales 'see as a failure what is actually a blessing: The book business, unlike newspapers, films, or television, is viable on a small scale.' Zaid, who claims to own more than ten thousand books, says he has sometimes thought that 'a chastity glove for authors who can’t contain themselves' would be a good idea. Nonetheless, he cheerfully opines that 'the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.'"--The New Yorker



(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:08 -0400)

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