Sunday, September 26, 2010

L@@K What They've Done Now Ma!

Brian Williams on NBC's Nightly News reported back in July about Amazon's report that they sold more e-books than hard covers for the previous three months. Now take into mind that's hard covers. That certainly makes sense in some respects considering the price difference between the two and the fact that you could have it immediately on your hand-held device. And yes, that's a lot of books, but more mass market paperbacks are sold in the second life of hard cover editions. When the sales of e-books outweigh paperback sales that feat will certainly be a major turn in the publishing world. And the paper world for that matter. And maybe the trees in Brazil? I dunno... I hope so.

I recently picked up my Mom and Ant (yes, that's how I spell it gang ;-) from the Atlanta airport after their whirl wind tour of Scotland (they saw the Pope drive by! I think he was in a black Mercedes... I digress ) this past week. While I was waiting for them to get through customs, which can take awhile, I stopped into a couple of the airport outlets selling books. I spoke with both managers about the current sales of actual books and if they had noticed a drop in sales. Surprisingly they said no, that book sales were quite brisk. So are magazine sales. One manager mentioned her take saying "people still enjoy the convenience of picking up reading material at the last minute before a flight." she also heard from a couple of customers mentioning they "still like holding a physical book." I think this is easily understood with the generations who grew up with physical books. It's the younger generation that has grown up with computers, I-pods, I-pads, Blackberry, etc the now "every day" devices that make up their world. Oh, it's part of our world too, but not the same way it is for them. In some respects it's the only world they've ever known as they entered the age of staying connected. Almost everything is available at the stroke of a keyboard, a push of a button. I thought my generation was truly progressive, but now that I look back on it, I remember four, count 'em, four TV channels. The phone was rotary. And if you wanted fast food, you still had to walk into McDonalds to place your order. If you don't know what a rotary phone is, you can find the definition, online of course, at Could today's generation even fathom that kind of life? I've embraced it, and I would even say my wife has embraced it more than I have. It has it's advantages.

One more thing on the subject of the "online world." Music. Again it has it's advantages, I've no real complaint with it. But it's missing something. There was more to the music than just the latest hit you can download. These artists create whole albums, and some of them deserve a listen. The old argument was "I only want the hit song." Today that's possible. But I have heard so much good music from many of the albums I've played over the years. In those days I got to know the band. Read the liner notes on the album sleeves, etc. I remember one year I couldn't wait for Paul McCartney and Wings live album to come out, Wings Over America, a two record set of the now famous 1976 tour. It came with a poster, lots of info to read, a gate-fold cover. In fact I was so excited the day of it's release, that I walked past it because the title was in fine letters at the top of the album as you can see here. No band picture, and not very discernible. It's the painting of the side of a plane with the door being opened and the light coming out from within. As in "the show is here!" Perfect. I couldn't wait to get it home and put my vinyl on the record player, listen to the music, and read the album packaging. A lot of times they printed the lyrics, which cleared up a lot of questions during those lead vocal moments of "slurring." It was a positive experience in so many ways. That was my past, and my experience. Hey, as long as they're enjoying the music, then cool. It was just different for our generation ( you know who you are ;-).

Speaking of books getting a new medium, here's something that I recently discovered. Artist Thomas Allen's work with old pulp fiction paperbacks. Rather I should say his work on the actual book itself. He's converted these old paperbacks into works of art, and you see a few of them pictured here. He's actually taken the cover art, cut it to fold out and / or inter work one or more covers with each other to form these unique settings. A simple but good idea. You might think this would be abhorrent to a bookseller / publisher like myself. Let's face it, at this point there have been billions of books published, and from the looks of some of the books he's using, he's given them a new life. I find it intriguing. Check them out if you get a chance. Online of course :-).

Y'all keep shining out there.

Dave Hinchberger

The artwork seen here is courtesy of Thomas Allen and the Foley Gallery.

See more of Thomas Allen's Pulp Book Artwork at the Foley Gallery

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