Your Thoughts: Does the World Need More Books?

6 years ago

Pull out a chair and sit down with your cup of coffee. It's time to have a little talk. Today's discussion: should bloggers be writing books or should we stick to posts?

Bill Keller of the New York Times had a tongue-in-cheek column a few weeks back that created some buzz titled "Let's Ban Books; or at Least Stop Writing Them." The main gist of his argument, in case you don't have access to the New York Times site, is that journalists are producing a ridiculous amount of books, and at the heart of the column is the unasked question: how many of these books really need to be written?

Every month, it seems, some reporter drops by my office to request a leave of absence to write a book. I patiently explain that book-writing is agony — slow, lonely, frustrating work that, unless you are a very rare exception, gets a lukewarm review (if any), reaches a few thousand people and lands on a remaindered shelf at Barnes & Noble. I recount my own experience as a book failure — two incompletes, and I’m still paying back a sizable advance with a yearly check to Simon & Schuster that I think of not as a burden but as bail.

But still the reporters — and editors, too — keep coming to sit in my office among the teetering stacks of Times-written books that I mean to read someday and to listen politely to my description of book-writing Gethsemane, and then they join the cliff-bound lemmings anyway.

On one hand, I actually found the column a little funny, and on the other, it made me sad -- mostly for what was revealed about Bill Keller more than the state of books. I couldn't disagree with him more, believing that writers need the challenge of different types of projects in order to always be moving ahead with the business of words.

I opened a People magazine recently and there were three -- THREE! -- books being reviewed that were written by people who started out as bloggers. In other words, they blogged first, booked second. The day before BlogHer, I'm speaking at Pathfinder Day with Carleen Brice about publishing. It's a chance for writers to come together and ask all of their questions to two people who have been through the publishing process multiple times, moderated by a publisher from Penguin. The need for the day speaks volumes about the number of people who are declaring that book writing is far from dead. If anything, book writing has just gotten a well-needed jolt from e-readers and a fresh wave of talent pouring in from the blogosphere.

(Speaking of getting answers to questions, Sassymonkey passed along one of the most honest posts I've read in a long time about numbers and publishing.)

So, spill, do you have plans to write a book? Are you writing one now? And what do you think of Bill Keller's request for journalists to stop writing books and get back to writing for newspapers since the same request could be made for bloggers dropping book writing to return to their blogs.

Photo Credit: Ian Wilson.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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