Holt Uncensored: Now
After a brief hiatus, Holt Uncensored has returned in 2008 as a bl … as a blo … (still hard to say it) as a BLOG with lots of new bells and whistles and a more solutions-oriented approach. I felt it was one thing to expose negative influences in the book biz, quite another to seek out the core values we all share as a way to identify higher standards.
Regardless of how many corporations have taken it over, how much Amazon has changed it, how few independent booksellers are left, how broke libraries and schools have become or even how little time any of us have to settle down with a good book, the same questions are going to occur for everybody in publishing when it comes to determining the fate of a new book: How good is the writing, where is the audience, how can quality be raised and prices kept low.
Other questions hover: Has the book industry sold out to corporate commercialism, is there really such a thing as the “democratization of publishing,” are good books getting lost by the wayside?
And these point to transformative changes in the future: Will physical books be replaced by electronic readers, what will become of independent booksellers, is mainstream publishing about to collapse from stagnant sales, the conglomerate culture and challenges from the Internet?
At the end of an important era in my life (after my partner died – see The Terry Ryan Columns), I considered letting Holt Uncensored go. In its long-winded way, the column had accomplished the goal I had set up for it 10 years before, which was to provide a witness and a place to discuss the convulsive changes in the book industry.
And, too, by 2008, a dozen well-financed and technologically wondrous blogs had emerged to chronicle the new publishing landscape. Some of them were goofy rumor mills, some invaluable digests of book industry news and some personal statements as opinionated as my own.
But I wanted to ask the big questions at the heart of the publishing process: What are our standards; do we still value the creative process (and its authors); can we move the mainstream from New York to the whole country; will we use the new technology to help serious books; and how can we inspire people to read more?
Book publishing is, after all, the great caretaker of a nation’s literature, so these questions have always been important. But now along with being outraged and flummoxed by negative trends in book publishing, I’d like in my dotage to explore a positive, upbeat and mature approach. That way I can make fun of megalomaniacal CEOs and get away with it, too.
As always, I welcome comments from readers who have gotten as exercised by my excesses as I have been of the industry’s.