Turning the Page on the Disposable Book

September 2008
by Jonathan Karp

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Turning the Page on the Disposable Book

by Jonathan Karp

Many years ago, as a new editorial assistant at a venerable publishing house, I was warned by a senior colleague never to use a certain word when telling authors what would happen to their unsold books. The forbidden word was: mulched. My colleague, a compassionate sort, worried that the word might shatter the fragile psyches of authors who had toiled for years on their manuscripts. It was better to let them believe their work was being discounted, or perhaps donated to some inner-city literacy program. Today a tactful publisher might simply invoke environmental concerns and emphasize the global imperative of recycling to prevent the melting of polar ice caps, in effect telling authors: Destroying your book will save coastal cities!

Amazingly, authors rarely ask what happens to their unsold books; perhaps they don’t want to know. What seems abundantly true to me, however, after almost 20 years in the publishing business, is that an increasing number of their books will be—and should be—mulched. We are living in the age of the disposable book.

Visit your neighborhood superstore, and you will be overwhelmed with ephemera: self-aggrandizing memoirs by recovering addicts; poignant portraits of heroic pets; hyperbolic ideological tracts by …IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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