In today’s Guardian Review, Andy Beckett puts forward a thoughtful argument about the difficulties of selling ‘serious’ booksBy this he means good, I think in today’s publishing market. He talks in terms of non-fiction, but his arguments apply to fiction too.

“The market for really good books has not diminished,” says Stuart Proffitt, the publishing director of Penguin Press. […] Proffitt concedes that such successes take more effort than they used to: “You have to think more carefully than ever before about every aspect of a book’s publication, how it looks, how you communicate its existence.” But he insists that the fears for serious books are overblown. “People in the book business are always saying there’s a crisis and we’re going to hell in a handbasket.”

The article is reasonably balanced, given its provenance, but I do wonder at statements like this:

There is a crisis in British bookselling, thanks to the internet, the recession and the particular competitiveness of the British high street.

To make sense, this rests on defining ‘bookselling’ as something that excludes the Internet – a distinction akin to defining a road vehicle as anything pulled by a horse. Why isn’t seen as British publishing? Sure, it’s an American-owned company. But a quick search on Wikipedia confirms that there are few UK publishers who stand on their own two feet.

Is it the end for quality non-fiction? | Books | The Guardian

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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