April 26, 2013

Concerned about the future of books? James Patterson to the rescue!


Writing 600 books a year is no longer enough. Time to take out some ads!

Bestselling author and total page-churner James Patterson isn’t going to sit by silently while bookstores need community support, the Department of Justice is enabling Amazon to grow out of control, and library funding is slashed. He’s taking action.

In a move he hopes will move the discussion about the future of books forward, Patterson has taken out ads in The New York Times Book Review, Kirkus, and the cover of Publishers Weekly in order to “start a dialogue” about action that can be taken to preserve bookstores, libraries, and literary culture.

In an interview with Salon this week, Patterson explained his motivation:

I do a lot of things to try to raise level of awareness of what’s going on in country right now. This is an unusual and different time for books, the most unusual in the history of this country. E-books are fine and dandy, but it’s all happening so quickly, and I don’t think anyone thought through the consequences of having many fewer bookstores, of libraries being shut down or limited, of publishers going out of business—possibly in the future, many publishers going out of business.

Patterson is certainly doing his part to promote literacy. He has a website—readkiddoread.com—which is for kids, librarians and teachers. He sponsors scholarships for hundreds of university-level teachers. He runs contests for high-school seniors for book gift-certificates for colleges. He is a co-chair of World Book Night. He even teamed up with Duchess Camilla to try to get dads to read more (true story!).

But Patterson believes this isn’t enough. And he says that he’s not the right person who should be speaking out:

I don’t think we have a real strong spokesperson in the publishing community, someone who can stand up. If they were, they got distracted by lawsuits [against Amazon and publishing houses]. That scares publishers, as it should. It doesn’t really matter. I’m stepping up a little. But it’d be nice if it was the head of a publishing company.

So who’s going to step up? If not book publishing company CEOs, then maybe the government. He suggests that they could offer tax breaks, although he acknowledges that they’ve hurt publishers with the Department of Justice lawsuits. If not the government, then maybe the media, who Patterson says is running the same old story about the book business being in trouble.

“That article is not worth running,” he told Publishers Weekly. “The New York Times needs to wake the fuck up.”

Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.