Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Until today, I was not aware people actually came around to buy books by the pound, and this got me thinking. In many ways, publishing is akin to the fashion industry in the way that the remainders, overruns, and shelf worn end their days—in landfills, second-hand seller databases and garages, and developing countries. The latter receives remaindered t-shirts, shoes, and pants. It is the former where books end their days. This brings up a weird confluence regarding the publishing industry and tax law. This, I suppose, can also apply to how the fashion industry operates too. Which also happens to vehicles, or any commodity for that matter. But vehicles are also parted out or chopped, while books and to a lesser extent, clothes are resold, redistributed, and recycled by the item. It all still adds up to the idea of books as commodity whether we like it or not.
But what about the books? They become denuded and remaindered, their covers ripped off (paperbacks, for example) and the front matter struck with a magic marker.
Yes, book publishing is a strange kind of enterprise. We are horrified at the thought of destroying books, but publishers have to do it because of taxes, balance sheets, assets, liabilities, and just plain doing business. Moreover many of those destroyed books end up that way because 1) the price rose and they need a new cover, and 2) they redesigned the cover art because they sold a few and now want to 'refresh' the item, and must now take back the old copies and bring in the new. For a long time now, books are neither a vessel for literature, art, knowledge, information, or dreams. They are simply a commodity with a shelf life, like milk and white bread. I would have added Kodachrome, but we all know what happened to that.
Note: If you can get your hands on St. Clair's book, " The Secret Lives of Color ," go for it! It's absolutely beautiful...