You Could See It Coming from a Mile Away
On the Infinitely Avoidable Regrets of the Publishing Industry (2000–2009 Edition)
Paul Constant finds it endlessly regrettable that publishers have decided to treat amusing but gimmicky blogs as source material for humorous books (à la Stuff White People Like, Passive Aggressive Notes, and Post Secret). The obvious flaws of this plan are as follows, in bold for emphasis: The content is available for free on the internet.
JT Leroy regrets not existing.
Paul Constant regrets reading Sarah Palin's hateful memoir, and he especially regrets that nightmare he had while reading the memoir that combined Trig's birth with the horrific vampire birth scene from the last book in the Twilight series.
Few things are more regrettable than the closing of Epilogue Books and Bailey/Coy Books this year. The only thing that could possibly be more regrettable than those two beloved bookstores closing would be if Seattle somehow allowed the Couth Buzzard, Horizon Books, and Elliott Bay Book Company—three bookstores that have gained miraculous new leases on life in 2009—to close after their relocations and reopenings.
The book-buying public regrets Anne Rice's conversion to Catholicism. The books she has written since finding Jesus are awful enough to make anyone slaughter a goat in the name of Baphomet.
Paul Constant regrets that e-books have clearly been on the way for at least 10 years and only now is the publishing industry trying to react to them. E-books should not have surprised anyone in publishing, and yet somehow here they are, shocked and befuddled by this supposedly unforeseen turn of events; publishers spent more time in the last decade apologizing for, and reacting to, the James Frey kerfluffle of 2006 than planning for the future of their industry. Paul Constant attended several American Booksellers Association meetings in the early 2000s when facilitators would try to discuss some sort of plan for independent booksellers to get in early on the e-book market. He deeply regrets that every single one of those meetings came to an early conclusion when a bookseller would stand up and tearfully exclaim some variation of the following: "People will always read books! They'll never want to read books on some awful screen!" Those smug, self-righteous, shortsighted dolts are a major reason why Amazon.com, and not the ABA, is at the forefront of the e-book market.
Paul Constant regrets not writing more about these books in 2009: the short-story collection Horror Story and Other Horror Stories by Robert Boyczuk; Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter (two compelling novels by local authors); Cranioklepty, a history of grave robbing by Colin Dickey; The Book of Jokes, a novel by Momus about the people who live inside the jokes we tell; and Monsters, a comic-book memoir about catching herpes by Ken Dahl.
While regretting the closures of bookstores is a good and important thing to do, booksellers who are lucky enough to remain in business should regret that they haven't looked at their business from an impartial perspective at least once a week and wondered how they could better serve their customers. They should then vow to begin that practice in 2010.
Paul Constant regrets that the future of books hasn't gotten here faster. Once we get used to e-books and online litmags and whatever comes after that, there will be some serious literary brilliance flying around that the world has literally never seen before. We're going to have an amazing next 10 years.