The Best–and Worst–of Times

June 2004
by Stephen J. Kerr

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

–Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

So there I was at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London, attending a seminar titled “Publishing: Another Fine Mess,” when Charles Dickens’s words came flooding back to me. I realized that I had heard exactly the same publishing industry complaints at dozens of other industry seminars stringing back to 1984, when I attended my first ABA (now BookExpo):

“There is no diversity in the bookstores”; “The marketing people–rather than the editors– make too many decisions about what should be published”; “The cards are stacked against the independent publisher ever making it at retail”; “The big publishers are pushing the smaller publishers out of the marketplace”; “Bookstores are terrible places to sell books&#15IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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