An Open Letter from Joshua Henkin
Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony and Swimming Across the Hudson is an energetic and determined writer and lover of literary books. A creative writing teacher, he’s gracious with an interview, follow lit blogs and book review pages, and generally works hard to promote his own writing and that of others.
This week brought news of still more layoffs and restructuring as Macmillan separated 4% of their workforce. While the publishing industry labors under some dark clouds, Henkin sent an impassioned email to his friends and fans that provided several good ideas for giving a book this holiday season.
With Henkin’s permission, here is the message in it’s entirety:
As many of you know, the book industry is in serious trouble. It was in trouble when economic times were good, and now that times are bad, things have gotten really precarious. Book sales across the industry are down as much as 40 percent, publishing houses are laying off people and cutting imprints, one big publishing house announced that it was no longer reading new manuscripts, and a major chain bookstore is on the brink of bankruptcy. Many of these problems have been a long time coming (the decline of newspapers and especially of book review sections has been a big blow, as has the closing down of many independent bookstores), but in recent months the problem has become especially acute. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but these are alarming times. What’s at stake is the future of books, and of reading culture. Although books will continue to be published (Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling will publish their next books), for everyone except a handful of bestselling authors, the future is far more uncertain. What’s at stake is the wealth and diversity of book culture. Many classics (books we read in our English classes in high school and college, books our children read or will read), simply wouldn’t be published by today’s standards and, if they were published and didn’t sell well immediately, they would be removed from the bookstore shelves. This is why it’s so important that you buy books for the holidays. There’s a website dedicated to this enterprise, www.buybooksfortheholidays.com, which you might want to check out, and publishing houses are running ad campaigns focused on holiday book-giving. You really can make a difference. A typical paperback novel costs less than fifteen dollars, far cheaper than a necklace or a sweater or dinner at a nice restaurant. I would especially encourage you to buy books from independent bookstores, which are in the most serious trouble and which promote books that go beyond the usual bestsellers and where the employees really know about books. Independent booksellers are the unsung heroes in what are very difficult times. Thanks for reading this, and have a happy and healthy holiday.