Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Library Use Statistics: Up!

Bookseller Timothy McSweeney, produced a six part report on "The State of Publishing" in February that emphasizes, as he puts it:
The good news is that there isn't as much bad news as popularly assumed. In fact, almost all of the news is good, and most of it is very good. Book sales are up, way up, from twenty years ago. Young adult readership is far wider and deeper than ever before. Library membership and circulation is at all-time high.
I find the statistics that he gathered on library usage particularly interesting:

The more libraries I spoke with, the more I realized they are not only doing well, but that they did, in 2010, easily surpass historic rates of user growth in all fields—most importantly, borrowed items and registered borrowers.
McSweeney's statistics did not go unchallenged. Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest disputed his statistics on library usage, publishing and readership and Jeremy Dibbel of PhiloBiblos finds them "incomplete." The debate over the future of the book seems to be hamstrung by the fact that there is no agreement about the book in the present, or even the very recent past.

But before we leave the subject, I need to point out an observation that Jane Friedman makes about McSweeney's in a postscript to her critique:
I have been a longtime fan of McSweeney's. As my colleagues at Writer's Digest could tell you, I would repeatedly bring their publications  to team meetings and say: THIS is what we need to do. I admired how their physical production was as much a piece of art as the writing contained inside. It made the print product worth having and worth investing in. I think a segment of print publishing may end up going in this direction. (Book as talisman, as keepsake, as identity giver.)
It is natural so see iconic books and e-books as opposites, but my recent research suggest their relationship is much more complicated. More on that later ...

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