Diane Wachtell’s article makes a very good point but I believe she leaves out something important. She states that it isn’t the book in printed form that is important but just “long form” texts. She rightly points out that these texts “for centuries have been the primary vehicle through which creative, illuminating, controversial, and important ideas have been communicated.” (1-2) That our culture has been rocked by books. That we have progressed, analyzed, and realized ourselves through books. Texts make readers contemplate their society and their world. It allows them to see where they came from, how the world actually is, and where it might go in the future. Just think of 1984. These kinds of books not only educate us but force us to really think about the world around us.
Wachtell goes on to talk about how the book-publishing world is dying because they are still thinking of sale and marketing structures in relation to printed book publishing. She calls out to the purveyors of e-books – Amazon, Google, and Apple – to take up the job of creating the new lofty ideas. This however, is where I disagree with Wachtell. Publishers, though in the business of making money, are often selective about which books they allow to be published under their name. They will not waste their time and money on a lofty idea that is really not all that lofty. However if these run of the mill publishers go out of business, I found it hard to believe that the purveyors of e-books will step into their shoes fully. These companies have lots of other products to hold up their reputation. They can publish almost any book that they come across, as is, and make more money than they would selecting and editing it. I somehow doubt that Amazon will have an editor work one-on-one with an author to make a great idea even better. And if an e-book tanks, then it won’t really affect the corporation’s reputation or profit margin. So why can’t traditional publishers evolve? Why can’t, as the times change, they abandon the old pricing structures and focus their energies on creating new ideas solely in electronic format? Drastic things will have to change within the company if we want the industry to still be selective and not be a free-for-all. But if we want to continue to nurture and create lofty ideas (in the way Wachtell seems to stress), publishers don’t need to become extinct. They need to evolve.