Hello to All This

June 12th, 2014

Hello there book lovers (and others as well). I’m Alex and I’m going to be an intern for the summer here at Beaufort Books. I’m a Communications and English Literature major, and as you can probably tell from my current workplace, I love books and reading. The one thing I love almost as much as books (aside from friends and family and loved ones…) are flowers. I think there’s nothing better than being in a room where there’s fresh flowers, the more colorful the better. For this reason I’ve decided to make my blogger name Simply Beautanical (I wouldn’t dare break with the ‘beau’ tradition started by past interns eons ago). Because I adore flowers and they bring a smile to my face, I’ve decided to share a photo of a different flower with every blog post. It’s my hope that this will brighten your day, dear reader, the same way it brightens mine.

However, since this is a publishing internship I can’t forego the opportunity to share some books as well. Recently I’ve found myself reading a million books at the same time, but one book that is particularly relevant to me right now is Goodbye to All That, a collection of essays written by accomplished writers about loving and leaving New York. Considering that I am a recent transplant to New York City I find this book endearing and interesting. These pages are filled with anecdotes and adventures from writers such as Dani Shapiro, Ann Hood, Sari Botton, Valerie Eagle, and many more. Reading these essays transports me back to the New York of five, ten, even fifteen years ago. One thing I’ve learned from reading this book is that New York City is a place that is constantly changing, and while you might love it today you might tire of it next week, or next month, or in twenty years. You can’t really know for sure. For now, I’m enamored by New York City and everything it has to offer; I can’t imagine spending my summer anywhere else. I can’t wait to see where this internship will take me and what it’ll teach me, which I’m sure will be a lot. I’ve already had such great experiences here at Beaufort, including working at Book Expo America and meeting various authors as well as reading manuscripts at the office. I’m excited to see what’s next!

Until next time,

Simply Beautanical

 

The Alexandra Rose (yes, that’s the flower’s name. Fitting, I know)

Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That

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Au revoir, Beaufort

May 22nd, 2014

It feels very strange to be writing my last blog post for Beaufort.  I have spent the last five months working here, and it feels as though I’ve only been here for a few weeks at most.   I am, however, incredibly excited to experience BEA, which is happening next weekend at the Javits Center. I’ve been to conventions before, and even to conventions at the Javits Center before, but those were comic conventions-BEA promises to be a whole different beast, with different panels on publishing, rows upon rows of booths housing different publishing houses, and, of course, a whole lot of books.  I can’t wait to work with Beaufort at their booth, go through the dealer’s room and talk to different people in the business, and just soak up the atmosphere.  It’s going to be amazing!

My enthusiasm for BEA, however,  is tempered by the fact that I’m leaving Beaufort in two weeks.  Working at Beaufort has been an experience I will never forget.  This was my first foray into the world of publishing, and I could not ask for better guides than Megan, Michael, and Felicia.  They have been absolutely wonderful and kind, and I am so happy to have had them as coworkers and supervisors.  Beaufort is a wonderful place, where an intern can grow and flourish, and where their ideas are taken into consideration.  I will be very sad to leave it behind.

I’m not quite sure how to end this, mostly because I don’t really want to.  However, as Game of Thrones as taught me, all men must die, and so must this post (however ungendered it might be).  I will wrap up with a simple goodbye, and the hope that the next group of interns have a wonderful time at Beaufort as I have.

Much love,

Beausenberry Pie

My final recipe is a simple one, but in times of bittersweet farewells simplicity is the best.  Plus, it’s perfect for summer.

Cherry Pie

Crust:

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries) or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if using dark sweet cherries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon (about) milk

How to Make:

For crust:
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small pea-size clumps form. Add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix lightly with fork until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.

For filling:
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips from dough round. Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with butter. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle lattice with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

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Ta-ta for now, Beaufort!

May 14th, 2014

I can hardly believe that the time has come for me to say goodbye to the Beaufort office. My last week here has crept up on me, along with my last round of college finals and my graduation from NYU next week. Change can be overwhelming, but I feel as though I have truly grown in my time at Beaufort and am more ready than ever to enter the world of publishing. I have learned so much from my various projects, from proofreading manuscripts, to sitting in on production meets, and managing the social media sites. I have gained a thorough understanding of the process of a book’s publication and all that it takes to get a book ready for the eyes of readers, from the editorial stages through to publicity. However, I am most grateful for my time working so closely with my supervisors Megan, Michael, and Felicia. The Beaufort office is warm and welcoming and it allows for ideas to grow, including those of an intern. So in the spirit of growth and with a tinge of sadness, I will attempt to embrace change and leave my wonderful internship here at Beaufort and the comfort of college to see what the future will bring. But before I get too teary eyed, I will say that I will be joining the Beaufort team one last time at the Book Expo of America in a few weeks! So, I’ll simply leave with a “Ta-ta for now!” and a fleeting hope that the future is as nice to me as everyone at Beaufort has been. Sigh.

Yours truly,

Violet Beauregarde

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A is for Attitude, P is for Publishing

April 23rd, 2014

In my time at Beaufort, I’ve become increasingly tuned into just how important an author’s attitude is toward the success of a book. While it may seem obvious that a good attitude is beneficial to success in any endeavor, I’ve never really thought of writers that way. If anything, the opposite seemed true. Popular culture taught me the best writers were degenerate, alcoholic Bukowskis or shrewish, reclusive Salingers, who had no desire or need to please anyone. College taught me about degrees of distance, that proper literary study requires the observance of theoretical boundaries that eliminate authors, or treat them as shrouded abstractions, irrelevant to the analysis of the text they produced. My imagination told me that publishers would not really care how an author behaved, as long as his or her writing was good enough to sell books.

Yet months spent observing how a publisher functions has illuminated the ways in which a bad attitude can do a disservice to authors themselves, the publishers who believe in them, and the sizes of their prospective readerships. The authors with the best attitudes are the ones who take a proactive approach to their book’s success. They take the initiative to aggressively market, including self-organized book tours with signings and readings. There are authors who expect their books to become best-sellers with little to no effort on their part, and they are limiting their book’s potential. Furthermore, a default positive attitude can reap unexpected benefits in many aspects of life, and publishing is again no different. It’s much easier for publishers to go the extra mile for somebody who is kind and pleasant.

And despite what I learned in my English classes, I feel it’s impossible to fully distance ourselves from an author. Try as we may to be objective, any knowledge about an author affects us, even if it’s only subconsciously. For instance, even though I adore Bret Easton Ellis’s writing, I know many people feel alienated by his polarizing public condemnations of the likes of David Foster Wallace and Alice Munro, and therefore don’t take him as seriously. Or there’s Tao Lin—I was a fan of his poetry, so I went to a reading of his novel Taipei a few months ago. When it came to the Q&A portion of the evening, he gave terse answers with little care or thought to them. He came across as flippant and disdainful, and it made me lose a lot of respect for him. Even if he does not really care for doing readings, and answering the accompanying (sometimes inane) questions from the audience, making no effort to mask these sentiments is just downright foolish. These people came out of their way to see him, and they are the ones buying his books. While I still see merit in reading his books because he’s an incredibly talented writer, there are many books by great writers I have not read yet. That reading singlehandedly made Tao Lin less of a priority for me. Compare him to somebody like Neil Gaiman, who makes a noticeable effort to reach out to his fans on social media platforms, and is generally just an incredibly nice guy. Back when Turntable.fm was still in business, Gaiman ran Neilhimself’s House of Poetry, a digital room where he and other users would play recordings of any poems they wanted. When I would take my turn at the decks, he would praise my selections, even though he’s a very busy celebrity author, and I was just an anonymous internet stranger. When it comes down to it, people are spoiled for choice when deciding what to read, and it’s much easier to sell books if your attitude makes it easy for people to respect you.

- Beauchamp Bagenal

NeilGaiman

Neil Gaiman. Source: http://ht.ly/w3mBC

turntablefm

One of Neil’s rooms on Turntable.fm. Source: http://bit.ly/1mz0t7

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Adventure is out there!

April 11th, 2014

As an English major, I’m required to read a lot of books in a very short period of time.  As someone who’staking a lot of medieval literature classes, a lot of what I read is either in a language I don’t understand or long-winded histories of saints.  Sometimes, it’s both.  A lot of the time, I read them because I have to, although I don’t particularly enjoy them.

I am, however, in the process of reading something that I genuinely love for one of my classes.  Most people know about Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales; that poem, however, is certainly not the only thing he ever wrote.  He composed the five volume poem Troilus and Criseyde in Middle English, and many scholars consider it to be his finest work.   The poem is set during the Trojan War, and tells the love story between Troilus, the second son of the Trojan king, and Criseyde, the high-born daughter of a traitor.  Their story ends tragically, with Criseyde returning to Greece alone and Troilus being left in Troy.

When I first started Troilus and Criseyde, I had low expectations.  Middle English is a difficult language to read, because it looks just off enough from English that one has to go very slowly; I also have never been a huge fan of romances, and reading an entire poem centered around one seemed daunting.  But as I became more and more immersed in the story, I started to fall in love with the setting, the constant mythological references and asides, and with the characters: the pragmatic yet still romantic Criseyde, the manipulative yet well-intentioned uncle Pandarus, and the warlike Troilus who is timid in love.  I had found something I didn’t expect to love at all, and now I’m devouring the poem every free second I have.

I feel like this happens a lot–we find a book that we’re not particularly excited about, and find that it’s everything we never knew we wanted.  It makes me excited to hit the library this summer–there are so many things to discover!  Adventure is out there!

-Beausenberry Pie

Recipe: This is a 14th century recipe for a pork pie.  I’ve never tried it, but I figure it’s appropriate given the subject matter for today.  Source: http://medievalcookery.com/recipes/mylates.html

 

2 – 3 lbs. cooked pork
4 eggs
1 cup mozzarella, grated
1 1/2 tsp. powder fort
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch saffron

pastry for a double-crust pie

Cut pork into approximately 1 inch pieces. Combine with eggs, cheese, pine nuts and spices in a large bowl. Mix well and place into bottom crust. Cover with top crust and bake at 350° until golden brown – about 30 minutes. Serve either hot or cold.

Source [Forme of Cury, S. Pegge (ed.)]: MYLATES OF PORK. XX.VII. XV. Hewe Pork al to pecys and medle it with ayrenn & chese igrated. do þerto powdour fort safroun & pyneres with salt, make a crust in a trape, bake it wel þerinne, and serue it forth.

 

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Shameless Self Promotion?

March 26th, 2014

I spent this past week in California where I had a lovely time, apart from missing the Beaufort office, of course. On my plane ride back to New York, I slept soundly throughout most of the flight. I didn’t exchange words with the woman sitting next me until we landed and I awoke to the jolt of the plane hitting the pavement and the sound of her voice asking me, “Do you like to read?” This seemed like an odd question. Of course, I love to read! However, in that moment I couldn’t imagine what her motive was in asking me this question. I stuttered “Yes, um, very much so.” She handed me a card with a book cover on it, and explained, “Shameless self promotion! My book is coming out next week.” I was both surprised and impressed, and I told her that I would check it out. After all, we book-lovers are rare these days and we ought to stick together, right? It turns out she had not only self-promoted her book, but self-published her book as well, and there should certainly be no shame in that either. So, if you are read this, Susie Orman Schall, props to you, because getting a book published, either here at Beaufort or all on your own, is a grand feat.  Susie recommended her book On Grace to me on the airplane, and in turn I will recommend Beaufort’s The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success by Eric Kampmann and Margot Atwell to Susie and to anyone else with a passion for writing. This book is the guide for anyone who has ever dreamed of holding their own book in their hands, and even for those who have already done so. It gives invaluable advice from the experts here at Beaufort on everything from self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, to the question of whether or not to hire a publicist. I hope that Susie reads it, and is inspired to continue writing, publishing and promoting her books to strangers on airplanes.on graceThe Insider's Guide to Book Publishing Success Cover

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Where is Spring???

March 6th, 2014

As Spring limps its way closer, I am continually drawn to the outdoors.  Although I live, study and work in the city, I love the woods and outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping.  I love the feeling of freedom I get in the woods, from electronics, responsibilities, and the bustle of New York.  My favorite place to go is the woods by my house.  I can go and walk up to the top of a small mountain that is one of the state parks and just sit there for hours, looking out over the landscape.  I always bring a book with me, too, to read while I eat a lunch or relax.

At Beaufort there are all sorts of books about hiking.  Jennifer Pharr Davis has written two books on hiking in the Appalachian Mountains; she once hiked it in 46 days, an almost impossible number to imagine for someone who takes a day to hike up and down a small mountain.  There is a new book by author and hiker Kev Reynolds entitled A Walk in the Clouds, a story of hiking, meeting people, and exploring the world.

When the leaves come back on the trees, I’m going to start going to upstate New York and doing day hikes.  I’ll definitely be bringing some books with me–some old classics and some new ones.  And I will definitely be picking up A Walk in the Clouds, coming out on April 21st.

Desperate for spring,

Beausenberry Pie

 

Today’s Recipe: Organic Fruit Roll-Ups.  From An Organic Wife:

http://www.anorganicwife.com/2013/05/recipe-homemade-fruit-roll-ups.html

 

Take strawberries, or any other fruit, and cook them down in a saucepan.  Make sure to mash them, and try and boil some of the water Move them to a blender and puree them, to make sure there are no chunks in the mixture.  Take a cookie tray and cut out a piece of parchment paper to put on the bottom.  Pour the mixture evenly over the parchment paper, making sure it is not too thin.

Set your oven to the lowest possible setting, and put the trays in.  Make sure to check them often so they don’t burn.  Once they are out, you can cut them into all different shapes and sizes.

 

 

 

 

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The Future of Publishing – Part 3

March 3rd, 2014

Parts 1 and 2 of this series can be found here: 
http://www.beaufortbooks.com/2014/02/the-future-of-publishing-part-1/
http://www.beaufortbooks.com/2014/02/the-future-of-publishing-part-2/

So how can publishers stay profitable against the shifting tide? By finding ways to incentivize print copies. Remember, books are becoming a luxury, so their aesthetics are more pivotal to their success than ever before. This might necessitate investing more money in better design. For example, people can google recipes online, or download interactive apps that will put all their cooking needs in a simple, organized place:

Source: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cake-recipes-by-recipe-world/id407364073?mt=8

Source: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cake-recipes-by-recipe-world/id407364073?mt=8

This app costs 99 cents. Who’s going to spend money on a recipe book unless it is absolutely gorgeous? There’s no room for mediocrity. The book must be luxurious—it has to surpass being purely functional to a significant degree, or what justifies purchasing it? Luddites and the technologically inept will surely account for some of the sales, but that market is shrinking daily. Making nicer books will have the secondary benefit of combating the growing market of those turncoat authors, like my roommate, who have decided to forego traditional publishing contracts and self-publish instead. Their books typically lack effective marketing and good designs and layouts. Publishers need to keep it that way by insisting on a tangible difference in quality.

For example, check out Le Cordon Bleu’s The Chocolate Bible. Carroll & Brown Publishers clearly recognize that a cook book’s appearance has to be as decadent as its content. The thick, large hardcover book filled with enormous photographs delivers more than just functional recipes—it serves as welcome addition to be displayed in the kitchen of any gourmet.

Available for purchase here: http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=55257

Better yet, why not also start creating apps to go along with print books and offer supplementary material, rather than simply competing with them? Publishers must embrace mobile technologies as the way of the future and invest in them immediately, given how fast the exponentially growing app market is moving.

The idea that stories have to be limited to books is already being challenged. Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction, has stated his Twitter activity can be considered a novel. Author Geoff Ryman has a completely free internet novel called 253, available at http://www.ryman-novel.com/home.htm. It details the thoughts of every single one of the 253 people aboard one of the London Tube trains. It is built to be an interactive digital experience: readers can freely hop from train car to train car, and click on passengers at will. The order they click on people will affect the order they read the novel. These characters often make observations about other passengers on the train, who can then be reached with an included hyperlink. Ryman even allows readers to submit their own 300-word character descriptions to be considered for his sequel. The concept seems absolutely seminal.

Publishers need not feel constrained to either traditional books or e-books. The future lies in applications, and there is an ongoing race to provide media in the most convenient and easily-digestible format. App technology will only continue to develop, and the only question is who will be profiting on this share of the market first? Will it be companies like Apple, who already have a multitude of book apps out there? Will it be self-published authors who decide to take a course on creating mobile applications? Or will publishers realize what’s happening before it’s too late?

As Josh Fisher, creator of an award-winning poetry app, describes in a blog post:

“Greater distribution, customization, social integration, and engagement can be found by putting time into producing a book application. It frees you from the design constraints of an ebook, and allows you to build stories that aren’t just books, but mobile experiences” (Source: http://www.appoet.org/2014/02/05/in-response-to-richard-nashs-lecture-on-the-future-of-publishing/).

Another technological innovation with far-reaching potential is the automatic book printer, like NYU’s Espresso Book Machine:

 Source: http://www.bookstores.nyu.edu/main.store/selfpublishing/

It can print “bookstore-quality” bound texts in customizable fonts, including an already 3.8 million+ titles in its database (some are even out-of-print), or allow self-published authors to print however many copies of their books they want. As such devices become better, cheaper, and more widespread, they could eventually challenge or even replace the need for traditional print runs by providing infinite inventory. Will publishers be a secondary part of this industry, simply supplying some of the titles, or will they be involved in developing and spreading it? It’s decision time.

Conversely, the quality of the books these machines can produce further highlights the need for design innovation. Traditionally published books will soon need to begin significantly surpassing the machine-produced texts in design.

Another technological marvel that can have far-reaching applications for book publishing is 3-D printing. It is a miraculous new development whose potential is only beginning to be explored. For example, it will be used to create cheap replaceable machine parts, grow entire living organs out of cells, or create life-sized models of fetuses for pregnant women. Book publishers need to innovate, and 3-D printing offers a fairly limitless potential to create objects, including books, like we’ve never seen before. It has already begun:

Source: http://www.appoet.org/2014/01/27/what-will-3d-printing-do-for-the-book/

3-D printing can even hypothetically be combined with automatic book printer machine technology. Limitless potential to reinvigorate the market is there. But book publishers need to hurry. The dour prophecies of people like my roommate need not come true, but like with any species or industry, it’s the survival of the fittest, and publishing will need to step up its game and evolve to stay alive. Today’s Darwinian scramble will determine tomorrow’s future.

–Beauchamp Bagenal

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The Future of Publishing – Part 2

February 25th, 2014

The first installment of this series can be found here: http://www.beaufortbooks.com/2014/02/the-future-of-publishing-part-1/

A second camp of people prognosticating the end of publishing are addressing the much more legitimate threat of digital books. I’ve recently moved apartments, and my new roommate is a self-published novelist in his forties who has seen considerable commercial success, reaching peak positions on several charts, including #4 on Amazon one month last year. We got to talking, and he made some very radical claims about the future of publishing. He thinks that bookstores are destined to become as obsolete as record stores—that they will one day be reduced to a few select locations catering to a niche audience.

E-readers do indeed present a formidable threat. They’re relatively inexpensive and fit entire libraries in one’s coat pocket. They have built-in dictionaries that look up unfamiliar words on the spot. I first bought my Kindle when I was moving to Korea because I didn’t want to be burdened with transporting books in my luggage or relying on the limited English selections in Korean libraries. It has proven to be an invaluable tool as I’ve drifted across countries, states, and apartments. Of course I’d rather be reading actual paperbound books, but the Kindle is just so much more practical, especially in a situation like mine. Actual books are a luxury for people who have the space to store them and the desire to pay slightly more for a nicer reading experience. E-readers are purely functional, and if publishers want to avoid my roommate’s grim prediction, they need to acknowledge that books are becoming a luxury item, and treat them accordingly.

Of course, there are exceptions to the practicality of e-books. Texts with extensive endnotes, requiring frequent flipping between distant pages, are unwieldy on e-readers. Nobody should suffer through something like Infinite Jest on a Kindle. But how long until the next technological innovation creates a workaround for this issue? It’s not even that complicated; I’ll invent and patent it myself: make it so it’s possible to click directly on any page and bring up the relevant endnotes immediately, without the hassle of navigating between the back and front of an e-book. I’ll be expecting royalty cheques, Amazon.

But books also have advantages that cold, impersonal, purely-functional e-readers cannot overcome: they are pleasant to hold. Their covers are nice to the touch and contain artwork that is beautiful, relevant, and sets a mood. They come with that patented new book smell, and after time passes, that old book smell, an acquired taste. One can flip through them quickly, instantly turn from one page to any other, scribble in the margins, and photocopy or dog-ear the pages. Hold them, love them, and make them yours. And share them with people who can see what you’ve done with them! One of my favorite aspects of college libraries was seeing decades-old comments and debates scrawled in the pages of books I checked out. Typed up notes on a Kindle can never fully replace this experience.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the introduction of e-readers has placed unprecedented strains on book sellers. Our hallowed citadel, Borders, has already fallen before the looming shadow. Yet many smaller bookstores appear to be prospering lately. When deciding to get into publishing, I interviewed a series of Brown alumni in assorted roles in the business. They included editors, literary agents, and Lexi Beach, the proprietor of the newly opened Astoria Bookshop.

Lexi told me that Queens residents were so deprived of bookstores that during her first months in business, people would frequently come in and thank her for opening her doors. I asked her how bookstores are competing with sites like Amazon—not only do they offer Kindles, but also the possibility of having the same exact books delivered to one’s doorstep, often at a cheaper price than in stores.

She told me that despite the internet’s advantages, it can never come close to simulating the browsing experience a bookstore offers. People can come in and physically hold books, sample reading them, flip through them, and immediately compare them to similar books nearby. People turn to bookstores to discover something new. Furthermore, bookstores are a gathering place for the literary-minded community. They are a valuable part of any neighborhood, as many of them run social events like book clubs and author readings.

When I asked if people come in, find the books they want, and then go home and order them for a cheaper price online, she told me that it doesn’t really happen—people typically understand that bookstores need support to survive, and make a point of shopping there to keep their doors open. Sidenote: buy books at the awesome new Astoria Bookshop if you live in Queens!

Source: http://www.queensmamas.com/queens_mamas/2013/08/astoria-bookshop-open-for-business.html

Source: http://www.queensmamas.com/queens_mamas/2013/08/astoria-bookshop-open-for-business.html

Yet the continued success of bookstores does not mean all is well. Other alumni reported layoffs across the board, loss of profits, and a general confusion in the industry about how to deal with the technological revolution of recent years. Sure, print media is likely destined to be around forever. For instance, The Paris Review vows it will never become an exclusively digital publication. But it’s not the general presence of printed texts that’s in question, but the degree to which they’ll continue to be relevant, popular, and profitable.

E-readers are still relatively new and haven’t reached their full potential. At the moment, many people have still never tried the technology, as they’ve grown accustomed to traditional books over decades of entrenched habits. But as time passes, more and more people will try e-readers, and the old guard will naturally reach extinction. Meanwhile, e-readers will become better and cheaper; all technology does.

So how can publishers stay profitable against the shifting tide? Check in next time for the third installment of this series!

–Beauchamp Bagenal

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The Future of Publishing – Part 1

February 21st, 2014

Many people can’t figure out how to dress appropriately for the upcoming day’s weather, yet when it comes to publishing, everyone’s a soothsayer. When I told family and friends that I intended to intern and get started in the business, the most common reactions were:

“…Why?”

“Are you sure?”

and “Don’t do it! Don’t you know it’s a dying industry?”

These concerns are valid. Ever since televisions came into existence, readers have been lured away from their books. Now more than ever, people are being bombarded with newer, faster, more engaging entertainment options. As both a former literature teacher and ex-youth myself, I can confirm that there has been a significant decline in the appeal of reading. Today’s culture is one of instant gratification. People want everything to be fast and simple, including their content. Why take the time and effort to read when one can mainline digital images? Reading historical fiction about the 1920s takes effort—accessing every episode of Boardwalk Empire immediately on Netflix does not. Searching a book for information requires work—googling does not. Where children once read about Roman phalanxes or Orcish hordes, they now relive those battles in interactive digital environments that let them become generals, thieves, knights, archers, snipers, wizards, and monsters—in a visually stunning format. Giant IMAX theaters are a supersensory barrage from all angles. Asia even has new “4-D” theaters, where interactive seats vibrate and add tactile sensations during pivotal moments in films. As with any pleasure, such a limitless inundation of thrills has the effect of over-saturating dopamine receptors in the brain, numbing people to the effects of slower and less intensive mediums like books, and forcing them to need BIGGER, faster, and *flashier* content for their next fix.

Source: http://www.advancedtechnologykorea.com/7931/

Source: http://www.advancedtechnologykorea.com/7931/

An idealist might argue that no simulation can ever surpass the infinite power of the imagination, and that books serve as an essential conduit for tapping into this potential. Yet there is no valid argument that digital content cannot also be an avenue to the imagination, or that it cannot also inspire creativity in those viewing it. And the entertainment industry has no plans of slowing down their efforts to seduce the public away from reading.

Against this general shift away from books, publishing is admittedly relatively powerless. But publishing’s doomsday prophets are forgetting one key fact: there are still more readers today than ever before. When people think back to the glory days of books, when printed texts were the primary form of content and entertainment available, there were also significantly less people reading! Part of this can be explained by a simple census: given the exponential growth of the human population, there are now billions more potential book customers on the planet. But perhaps even more significant is the fact that literacy and education rates have skyrocketed across the globe. 500 years ago, simply being literate was rare enough to ensure stable employment and a constant source of income. 150 years ago, higher education was limited to a select class of people, while the majority of the world was either illiterate or educated to a very minimal level. Every decade has drastically improved on not only the quantity of educated students worldwide, but also the quality of schools and classes. While today’s changing entertainment landscape might mean that a smaller percentage of school children will grow up to be regular readers, that won’t change the fact that a readership will always be present. As long as school curriculums continue to mandate literature classes, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Salinger will continue to inspire students and create life-long readers, much like symphonies continue to exist and prosper despite the invention of electric guitars and synthesizers.

–Beauchamp Bagenal

This is the first section of a three-part entry. My next post will address e-readers and how they have affected the present and future of the publishing industry.

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