18 May 11 | Chad W. Post

From today’s Publishers Weekly summary of Bowker’s latest report on publishing:

Despite the belief in many quarters that the growth of e-books will mean the death of the printed book, the number of books produced by traditional publishers rose 5% in 2010, to a projected 316,480, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday morning from R. R. Bowker. That number, however, is dwarfed by the growth in output of nontraditional titles, which jumped 169% to 2,766,260. As Bowker notes, the majority of nontraditional titles consists largely or print-on-demand editions of public domain titles. Self-published titles are also included in the figure. Based on the preliminary figures, the combination of traditional and nontraditional books totaled a projected 3,092,740 in 2010, up 132% from 2010.

The e-book vs. print book thing is probably misleading (as most experts point out, it seems likely we’ll live in a world of multiple formats), but the fact that there are almost 10 times more “nontraditional titles” being published than traditional ones is pretty striking. And the fact that over 3 million books were published last year is incredibly stunning. Especially since that’s up 132% over 2010 while sales for Jan/Feb 2011 for print books were down 24% compared to last year.

The sheer number of books brings to mind Gabriel Zaid’s So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, and reinforces my fears about how people ever discover anything amid this tidal wave of titles . . . When the average American only reads like 3 or 4 books a year, something seems a bit out of whack.

This overwhelming number of books also reminds me of this:

From the New Yorker:

The Argentinean artist Marta Minujín makes not sculpture but “livable sculpture” or, better yet, “happenings.” In her 1963 work “The Destruction,” she filled the Impasse Ronsin in Paris with her artistic creations from the previous three years (primarily splatter-painted mattresses, twisted up, hung on picture frames, sewn together with pillows) and then invited fellow artists to “intervene” with them, after which she set the lot on fire, while releasing among the spectators a hundred birds and a hundred rabbits. Minujín is perhaps best known for her work with mattresses (you can view some of her delightful deconstructions on her Web site), but she also has a thing for books. In 1983, she created a full-scale model of the Parthenon in a park in Buenos Aires made (but for some metal scaffolding) entirely of books that had been banned during the last military dictatorship (there’s an incredible picture of it here). After three weeks, the public was allowed to pick the Parthenon apart and to take the books home with them.

This week, she’s back with “The Tower of Babel,” an ode to linguistic oneness erected in the Plaza San Martin to celebrate Buenos Aires being named the World Book Capital of 2011. The structure contains some thirty thousand books in various languages, many of them donated by embassies of countries around the world (the U.S. sent one thousand books; Ecuador sent thirty-five hundred). “I don’t know why we have to have different languages,” Minujín told the A.F.P. “Art needs no translation.” Noble sentiments, to be sure, but I prefer her more irreverent reason for building the tower: “It’s really amusing to be able to climb up and down a work of art.”


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

Class
Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

Read More >

The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

Read More >

A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

Read More >

Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

Read More >

Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

Read More >