"Forced" -- my Foot!

I read Richard Cravatts' essay on the book publishing industry with special interest.  I'm an author and -- more to the point -- I also own one of those 70,000 book publishing companies whose declining standards he's bemoaning.

There's no question but that publishing standards have been dropping, and that far too many publishers have abandoned their traditional -- and vital -- role as "gatekeepers of our culture and knowledge."  Prof. Cravatts provides ample evidence in his essay to support this dreary claim, and I suspect that all of us could add an example or two.

But his conclusion -- that in today's marketplace publishers have been "forced to transform the profession of publishing from one in which ideas were generated and preserved for society's good into a process where the pursuit of profits overshadows this primary, seemingly nobler purpose" -- is just plain wrong.  Forced -- my foot.  The cause of declining standards among so many of our leading book publishers is plain, old-fashioned greed.  Throughout history, publishers -- like movie studios -- have always known you can get rich peddling garbage.  They just refrained from doing it.  Today, sadly, a lot of people have gone into the publishing business to get rich, rather than to enhance our culture.  It's as simple as that.

By the way, of those 70,000 publishing houses operating today in the US, it's mostly the big ones, based in New York and living off the reputations earned by yesterday's executives, who are driving down standards.  Take a look at the books being published by the little guys -- based all over the country and sometimes operating off the kitchen table -- who are publishing books of enduring value.  The good news is that in today's world of Internet buying, their books can reach the wide audiences they deserve, and whose steady, global sales keep these little guys going strong while the big guys muck up the stable.

Herbert E. Meyer
President
Storm King Press

I read Richard Cravatts' essay on the book publishing industry with special interest.  I'm an author and -- more to the point -- I also own one of those 70,000 book publishing companies whose declining standards he's bemoaning.

There's no question but that publishing standards have been dropping, and that far too many publishers have abandoned their traditional -- and vital -- role as "gatekeepers of our culture and knowledge."  Prof. Cravatts provides ample evidence in his essay to support this dreary claim, and I suspect that all of us could add an example or two.

But his conclusion -- that in today's marketplace publishers have been "forced to transform the profession of publishing from one in which ideas were generated and preserved for society's good into a process where the pursuit of profits overshadows this primary, seemingly nobler purpose" -- is just plain wrong.  Forced -- my foot.  The cause of declining standards among so many of our leading book publishers is plain, old-fashioned greed.  Throughout history, publishers -- like movie studios -- have always known you can get rich peddling garbage.  They just refrained from doing it.  Today, sadly, a lot of people have gone into the publishing business to get rich, rather than to enhance our culture.  It's as simple as that.

By the way, of those 70,000 publishing houses operating today in the US, it's mostly the big ones, based in New York and living off the reputations earned by yesterday's executives, who are driving down standards.  Take a look at the books being published by the little guys -- based all over the country and sometimes operating off the kitchen table -- who are publishing books of enduring value.  The good news is that in today's world of Internet buying, their books can reach the wide audiences they deserve, and whose steady, global sales keep these little guys going strong while the big guys muck up the stable.

Herbert E. Meyer
President
Storm King Press