Monday, October 26, 2009

What do all the books listed below which have been published by Marion Boyars in the past few years have in common?

Requiem for a Dream Hubert Selby Jr
Enlightenment Maureen Freely
The German Momey Lev Raphael
The Flea Palace Elif Shafak
The Gaze Elif Shafak
On a quick walk through the fiction shelves at the Putney Central Library, Wandsworth, these books were on display, and all had no less than eight library stamps in them. Well read, enjoyed, and waiting for the next browser. I just finished Lorrie Moore's excellent A Gate at the Stairs, in which the rather crazy Sarah takes books out of the library for her two year old daughter, and puts them in the microwave to get rid of the germs. I avoid really badly marked library books, since you do not know where they were last, but I love libraries - the possibilities, and the fact that your own house remains a little less cluttered. I did have to admit to myself that our house probably contains more fiction than all the fiction shelves in the Putney library. Oh well. Once I have bought and enjoyed a book, I cannot take it to an Oxfam shop. Too much of a good friend....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair

I'm just back from the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was fun, not as busy as the past few years (especially Saturday - very few people in the aisles of Hall 8 and just a few meetings). But one thought I had was this - the stands were full of new books, every subject, shape and author under the sun. I could have browsed for ages and there were a lot of books I would have liked to buy at the end of the Fair if I had space to pack them.

So, the current Kindle vs book discussion - can you imagine an international rights fair where all the books are on Kindle screens - a kind of book electronica. The book fair would be a little like a grey TV shop. Back to black and white on screens.

Just an idea - and I think it proves the book is here to stay. The publishing industry will be further split into massive firms and smaller ones supported by government initiatives or private patronage. This is a shame, and it is why Marion Boyars is finding itself divided in two - one part up for sale, the name and the history, with a large culturally divergent backlist, and the main fiction titles finding new homes at Penguin Modern Classics. It's not really a sad scenario as I know it is the right thing for 2010 and onwards. We had a great boom over the past ten years in retail and in education, but we are now in more digitally challenged times, so change is a coming in.