Book Biz: Digital Isolation, Color of the Year, Unique Bookstores

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albert-einstein-fear-technology-surpass-human-interaction-generation-idiots - EDITIt’s not true that I totally disregard Facebook postings. For instance I enjoy most rants but  despise videos. Some “friends” post memes that are supposed to scare old white men like myself, but I deplore them for their (the memes, not my friends) simple dishonesty. And while many have accused me of using social media to be anti-social…well, that part’s true.
But the meme above caught my eye a few months ago. Generally memes are forced on us out of context and without an attempt to establish even the simplest of facts, like Obama’s “terrorist” fist bump.
But I liked this one. I understood the context and had often observed the phenomenon.
And while I agree that our digital revolution has enabled unusual social interactions in lieu of physical proximity, body language, eye contact, etc. hasn’t that been the point of evolving communications technology? From papyrus scrolls to smoke signals, telegraphs and even the “TV phone” (which after failing in the marketplace has been reinvented not as a telephone but a “video-chat device”) each offered a means to communicate across space and even time.
So if it’s just evolutionary, why do I feel that this time it’s different?
Six or seven years ago I was in Los Angeles for a Book Expo. I brought along a new mini pocket PC that, among other things, played MP3s, so I walked the mile or so to the Staple’s Center with ear buds in place, listening to songs I knew so well I could have easily sung along (should any pigeons need scaring away). My isolation should have been sublime.
But walking home that first evening I put the ear buds in my pocket. I don’t live in a city but I enjoy cities. I like the diesel roar of the buses, the chatter as people pile up at the corner waiting for the light to change, the sirens in the distance. Listening to Monk’s Blues for the 53rd time would have to wait. I listened to L.A.teen agers texting
Yesterday as I drove down State Street and South University bordering U of M’s Central Campus I noticed that ear buds are ubiquitous. Not popular, not common, but universal. And I remember decades ago walking those same streets with friends, slinging our personal brand of BS or trying to deal with the terror of an impending Spanish 101 midterm.
Now the smart phone lets people walk alone, even in a crowd. Maybe I’m just jealous because I suck at texting, but I saw someone jogging down Packard last week-end, smart phone extended in one hand, thumb flying over a keyboard with the Distracted Girls Textingother. I was in awe. Fifteen years earlier she may have continued to jog while speaking on her cell phone. Fifteen years before that she wouldn’t have known she missed a call until she checked her answering machine.
I can’t believe how pressed for time we think we are. We even communicate in a digital shorthand that uses LOL for “laughing out loud” when we’re not laughing at all, and IMHO for “in my humble opinion” when the context betrays no trace of humility, just these universally accepted vacuous shortcuts that displace thoughtful communication.
Years ago at Baker Johnson Sandy would hold my calls when I was speaking with someone in my office. Speaking face to face is to phone calls what driving a sports car is to playing GT Racing 2 on your smart phone. One is a vibrant interaction, the other a collection of information to react to.
Even in cars packed with students rolling down Liberty Street, everyone is on their phones or running their thumbs over black plastic screens. Is it gauche to speak with those riding in the car with you?
children-with-smartphoneI can remember taking my kids and their teammates to their soccer and basketball games when road trips often involved car pooling. There seemed to be a lot of laughter and occasional shrieks from behind my seat while everything except the upcoming game was discussed between friends. I suspect now a child might forget who rode with him in the car to the game because there was no discussion with the other vehicle technology-creates-social-isolation-and-neurosis-3-1024passengers; they would each have been involved with their individual smart phone connections (although the idea of speaking on the phone to someone who is actually in the same car tickles me).
I guess as this twenty first century social behavior has become more prevalent I often wonder if Joni Mitchell was right when she wrote,”something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.” I can observe what we’ve lost, but I’m struggling to see the gain.
I think probably Albert was right.

Best of…” Lists Mark Year’s End

Time Inc. started it off with lists of the Top 10 works of fiction, Top 10 works of nonfiction, and the Top 10 Young Adult titles. (a division of Amazon) followers cast 3.3 million votes and selected the best books of 2014 in twenty categories.

My favorite is The NY Times’ list of the best book covers of 2014. Printers see hundreds of covers a year but will never give an opinion on yours if you ask. Its 100 Notable Books of 2014 has books you never knew you missed.

And leave it to Abe Books to make a 2014 book list with categories not found elsewhere.

Textbook “Spiral of Destruction”

As textbook prices continue to rise, students are buying fewer new copies, causing the price to rise even more. Can digital develop a solution?

Christmas Boycott of Amazon

By the time you read this it should be known if Amazon Anonymous’ Christmas boycott had any effect on Amazon’s sales. As of early December, the group had over £2.5million pledged not to go to Amazon this season in Great Britain.

nook_next_to_paperbacks.topB&N Nook, Microsoft Part Ways

What seemed like a great idea just over two years ago has been jettisoned. Seems that the hoped for “synergy” never developed.

Kodak Splits UpVersamark 3_360X240

Kodak has always been more than snapshot film and cameras. It’s produced a line of top rated graphic arts equipment and consumables for years, and henceforth Print Systems will be one of the stand alone divisions in the company which emerged from bankruptcy just fifteen months ago.

Bezos Says eBooks Helped Book Industry

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made the case that ebooks are good for the book industry, and I suspect he means like Ebola has added dimensions of functionality to our health care system.

Magazine Subscriptions

Would you like to subscribe to over 150 magazines but just can’t afford to? How about digital access to all of them for about $10 per month with nextissue subscription service? Make it $15 and you get access to all the weeklies too.

Color of the Year – 2015pantone-marsala-600x450

Waiting to finish that cover until you find out the hot color for the year? Get back to work, Pantone has announced this year’s color as Marsala, because “it enriches our minds, bodies and souls”. Specify Pantone 18 – 1438. Not everyone’s impressed.

Audio Books Without the Books

Audible , the giant audiobook creator (and a division of Amazon) is releasing an audio title by Jeffery Deaver that will not become any form of readable book to see if audio content can exist independently.

Bookstores in the Middle of Nowherela-1534159-na-adv-mad-dog3-mam-jpg-20131124

When big box bookstores drove independent sellers out of the malls, some found more exotic locations. Some opened stores where they live, no matter how remote. The unique store I would most like to visit is Mad Dog and the Pilgrim in Wyoming. Here’s why.

Digital Zealotry

A Nielsen poll about teenager’s enthusiasm for print books is debunked because a true believer explains how it’s flawed. His observation that remaindered books are cheaper than ebooks portends nothing but betrays his youth, because years ago bookstores had racks of books in front of the store selling for a nickel each, and that made the industry stronger. Don’t tell him that Techno-Authority web site CNET is introducing a paper & ink magazine

Final Thought

People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket. Ray Bradbury

About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.