The Work

I Can’t Even

Today the BBC brings us the news that Richard Russo is releasing Interventions only on paper and not for sale online:

[A] collection of four volumes, [it]is a “tribute to the printed book” and would not be made available online.

The author, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 with Empire Falls, said he wanted to encourage people to buy from local bookstores.

“Readers can’t survive on e-books alone,” he told the Associated Press.

“The rapid rise of e-books and online sales of printed books pose threats to bookstores, the book publishing industry and the rise of new authors,” he continued.

The idea that an author would refuse to sell his book in a certain manner – which would prevent many people from buying his book altogether – strikes me as…utterly meaningless. A waste.

Granted, the book itself (or books, rather, as it’s four volumes) is quite beautiful. There’s no question that its ideal format is in print rather than ePub.

But I think about those who cannot get hold of the print – those overseas, for example, who cannot afford the shipping fees and for whom digital reading is a great alternative because it allows for greater access to many, many books. I think of those who live in rural or underserved areas where bookstores are few and far between – not selling this book online (in any format!) deprives these readers as well.

The fact is, online is increasingly becoming an essential part of how books get bought. Russo’s love for independent bookstores is fantastic, and I would never dispute what a gorgeous phenomenon a well-run independent bookstore is. But for many, many places all over the world, it’s just that – a phenomenon. Not a reality.   These are communities who cannot sustain such a store – and railing against the reasons for this doesn’t stop it from happening. Releasing a book that can only be bought in places that don’t exist in most towns all over the world

Russo could’ve saved the paper. It’s a vanity project. Plus, the pirated version will be available shortly if it’s not already, given that most of the pirating happens inside the publishing house. If, in fact, it’s a book worth pirating. If it’s not…one has to ask why it’s being published at all.

3 thoughts on “I Can’t Even

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