Asserting that "we're living in a culture where if you're not born with ADD [attention deficit disorder], we'll give it to you in the first two years of your life," Association of American Publishers president Pat Schroeder said the book industry needs to unite to show consumers the value of the book. "We're swimming against a culture where speed" is seen as the most important ingredient in delivering information, Schroeder said in her keynote speech at last week's Book Tech 2004 convention.
Reading is losing market share to a host of media rivals, Schroeder said, and she is "frustrated" that the different parts of the industry don't work better together to expand the market for books. She said that while printers and publishers have begun to work together, the industry needs to "rope in agents and authors" in the fight to find more readers. Authors and agents have funds and other resources that could be used to increase the size of the book market, Schroeder said.
The great "disconnect" in the industry is that about 3,000 new books are produced each week, but there are fewer and fewer outlets to let consumers know about those titles, Schroeder maintained. Many newspapers have reduced or eliminated book review sections, and because of consolidation in the radio industry there are fewer local radio stations to interview authors of books of regional interest, she said. One way authors could help increase book sales, Schroeder suggested, would be to write to their local newspapers to demand more reviews of books. She also raised the idea that agents could use contacts in Hollywood to move the Get Caught Reading print campaign onto television.
Despite the challenges that the industry has faced in recent years, talk about the death of the book is clearly premature, Schroeder said. In fact, the disposable nature of most media coverage of events has given publishers some new opportunities. Noting that nearly every candidate who ran for president wrote a book, Schroeder said that books "are the only way serious issues" can be discussed in detail.