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The irrelevance of books

Nic Boshart, the digital services coordinator at the Association of Canadian Publishers, recently posted a very thought-provoking and urgent call for book publishers to be more open at The Literary Platform. [via Joe Clark]

The closing of This Ain’t the Rosedale Library (one of then best independent bookstore in Canada, Toronto landmark, and Abebooks seller) got Boshart to write about how publishers are craftspeople, and why books aren’t seen as relevant to real life anymore.  He compares the communication styles between book publishers and technology workers. His conclusions are that technology workers share their knowledge like mad while book publishers tend to keep their knowledge hidden. The results are internet technologies replacing books, bookstores being seen as inaccessible boutiques, and publishers & editors not being recognized for their important work.

His solution to the problem: publishers need to make their work more accessible to rebuild a common literary culture and make books a common part of life again. Boshart, a editor himself at Invisible Publishing, suggests publishers need to reference each other more and they need to create books that serve readers more. As he puts it, “We don’t need to connect with readers, we need to be a bridge for the reader to a piece of knowledge and we need to become craftspeople to do it.”

I thought the post was good call to arms. It isn’t so breathless and alarmed that it instills fear for the future of publishing, but hope instead. It’s worth a read for publishers, booksellers, and anyone interested in the future of books. Even the comments are good. Michelle MacAleese has some advice: “[…] make books about interesting subjects and amazing stories, the good stuff from real life.” And as examples of certain books being out-of-touch, there’s a blazing attack on pretentious Canadian literature over at Canadian Notes and Queries which calls up an earlier article by Douglas Coupland about the inaccessibility of Canlit.

Having a book-centered job can make it hard to tell how books are seen in the culture at large. So I invite you to read Boshart’s post and let us know what you think: good advice, or too dramatic?

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