On the Media's Episode about Books

I made a snarky mention of this yesterday, but now that I’ve listened to the entire program, I have to say, the recent episode of On the Media is actually a really solid overview of publishing issues.

The program primarily focuses on business issues as they relate to the emergence of new media, so there’s a bit in praise of paper, a lot of info about the Kindle, Sara Nelson from PW explaining the impact of conglomeratization, and a bit more about, yes, War and Peace.

There are a number of interesting statements and ideas worth pointing out, including the idea that books should be totally free and underwritten by advertisting . . . Which probably made everyone reading cringe, but at the core, there is something to this idea. Advertising is what pays for radio stations, and makes magazines cheap and disposable . . .

The core of this idea can be extracted from the commercial marketplace and actually be evidenced in the world of nonprofits. Most nonprofit presses receive funding from the government (state and federal), from private donors, from foundations, with the goal of offsetting the losses that almost always occur when publishing literary fiction. And in the nonprofit world, we usually don’t talk as much about sales as we do about reaching readers, about finding a way to cultivate an audience for a book or author outside of the traditional marketplace model. So the idea of someone underwriting a book that’s truly just given away isn’t all that crazy . . . and would probably “only” cost $35,000 or so, depending on how many you wanted to give away.

Anyway, the real point of this post is to highly recommend this episode of On the Media. It’s available online and through iTunes for anyone living in an area (like Normal, IL) where the local NPR station doesn’t carry this program.

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