Thinking About Writing and Reading

As I’ve noted here before, I’m working on a new book, a history of meat in modern America (meaning roughly 1870 to the present). (*1) That project takes up most of my time — the research, the writing, the banging my head on my desk, etc.

But this particular project is also weighted with more uncertainty than usual because it’s clear that the nature of “reading” and “writing” and even the meaning of the word “book” are changing at an extraordinary rate. So part of my brain is plagued — and distracted — by questions I didn’t ask or think about when I wrote my first three books: What will a “book” look like in, say, 2011, which is when I expect this new one of mine to land in bookstores. Will there still be “bookstores” in 2011? Will the book have a cover and pages? Or will it be “published” only in digital form? And who will publish it?

Nearly every publishing house in the U.S. is in a financial swamp, including the one that holds the contract to publish my next book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

So although the book has been sold to a publisher, I have no idea which publishing houses will still be standing in two years. Or which one will own my contract. Or, well, anything. And even if the book is published, it’s unclear to me what that will mean.

In any case, these questions are not new to me — they’ve been at the front of my mind for months. I’d been planning to blog more about the new book and will start doing so over the next few days.

Meantime, for more all on this, check out David Nygren’s thoughts at his blog, The Urban Elitist.

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*1: Although I plan to start blogging more about my work-in-progress, at the moment, there’s not much here. Weirdly enough, my most coherent public statement about that project is a blog entry I wrote for Powells.com back in 2006.

2 thoughts on “Thinking About Writing and Reading

  1. I have been thinking about writing a book as well (and will probably ask you for some advice if I go forward with it). But I had the same worry about finding a publisher right now. On the other hand, I may be running out of time at all to write a physical book I can hold in my hand, so I probably shouldn’t wait!Did you see Clay Shirky’s prediction print on demand will cause book stores to have just one display copy of every book, printing a brand new one anytime people want to buy? That would be an interesting model.

  2. Well, there’s no time like the present, eh?And publishers may be collapsing all around us, but those still standing still need “content.”On the other hand, as you say, the “book” you publish may not necessarily be a “book,” if you know what I mean.

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