Blown To Bits

The Book Business

Sunday, December 28th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The book business has been affected by the digital explosion almost as much as the news business, but in a different way. People buy new books over the Internet, since the prices are low and the selection is large. So local bookstores are closing, and even major chains are threatened. And the aftermarket has gotten incredibly efficient — it is so easy and cheap to buy used copies that no one is buying new copies of the classics.

David Streitfeld takes us through the economics and ethics of all this in the New York Times today. He quotes the editor of a literary review thus: “With the Internet, nothing is ever lost. That’s the good news, and that’s the bad news.” So true. I buy more used books now — if I don’t need something right away, I’ll sometimes buy some 50 or 75 year old book rather than retrieving it from the Harvard depository.

Blown to Bits is part of the new book economy. We’ve posted the whole book for download for noncommercial purposes, and our publisher has priced it so low that (we hope) people will buy it anyway rather than print it or try to read hundreds of pages off the screen. We shall see. And it will also be interesting to see what it’s like to negotiate a book contract in the new economy. Even though we signed Blown to Bits less than two years ago, I have a feeling the experience is going to be different next time.

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