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  • Wonderful article. In a world where it is so easy to publish your work and make it available to an audience, everyone is running to share their ideas. Why? Because we strive to be visible and the Internet provides an opportunity for every single person to have a voice. In this cluttered marketplace, those who can deliver an emotional experience will thrive across all genres.

    Posted by Corey Michael Blake on Thu 20 Oct 2011

  • Thing is, people living in the Keokuk, Iowas of other countries, like Germany, can still buy books at their local bookstore, where they can also get advice on what else they might enjoy, dispensed by a bookseller who is trained in the trade and most likely knows the makeup of most of the libraries of his/her patrons. Small towns still enjoy the presence of bookstores because the fixed prices that books are sold at in Germany have evened the playing field for small, independent booksellers. If you pay the same (low) price for a book at every bookstore, you're likely to frequent the one that provides actual service. And in almost all cases chains or online retailers can't provide any faster delivery of a book that's not in stock than the small store. Generally, if you walk into your local bookstore and order a book, you can pick it up the next day, if it's before noon, the day after if it's after noon.

    Posted by Ulf Buchholz on Fri 28 Oct 2011

  • I'd like to think this article is right--that publishing has adapted in the past to ideas that seemed likely to put publishing out of business, and that it can happen again--but I also worry the e-book might be fundamentally different in that content can truly go out for free. No distributors, no materials, just files and the internet.

    Analogue: The mp3 did not kill music production. But it did kill the physical record/CD as viable moneymakers, and moreover it made the music industry one in which it's the live shows, the concerts, that continue to make significant money back, not the legally-bought tracks themselves. (Which people easily circumvent online.) Books don't have a similar value-added when read aloud; there is no value to them aside from the words on the page/screen. So I wonder what exactly people will be willing to pay for in the future, if for example I won't pay for music I can get for free, but I would pay for a concert. What's the literary equivalent of the concert?

    Posted by C. Sender on Mon 7 Nov 2011

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Ben Tarnoff is the author of The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, which will be published by the Penguin Press in March. His most recent essay for Lapham's Quarterly appears in the Winter 2014 issue, Comedy. His website is
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