Category Archive 'Changing Times'

07 Sep 2010

“The Great Book Glut of 2010”

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More evidence of the futility of all human endeavor for those of us with very large libraries from Bookride.

1. Auction houses have become much more choosy. Some will not look at a book worth less than £500 and cannot raise a smile for anything worth less than £5000. Few now sell big lots and if they do they tend to make pathetic sums (with a few exceptions.)

2. An older more bookish generation is dying off or downsizing to homes and flats. Their heirs tend to keep very little and sell off the collections almost intact. Books are often regarded as a nuisance and some heirs are amazed that any money is offered at all. In the case of bland book club books, dull biographies, ‘doublet and hose’ history and fat dated remainders there are no offers forthcoming and owners resort to pulping, burning or the municipal dump. Even charity shops can be choosy.

3. Ebooks are having an impact, not at present vast but buyers and sellers are confused and see books in the main as a declining asset – we are undergoing what they call in California ‘a paradigm shift.’

4. Certain categories of book are holding their own and even improving in value and desirability. Books that are uncommon on the internet or command high prices there are much wanted-expensively published scholarly works, abstruse books and those printed in small quantities. Collectables, signed books, limited editions, fine condition antiquarian books, modern firsts, rarities and trendy art books are all eagerly traded.

I think his comments of the changes in the market for old books are spot on. Important books, rarities falling into established collecting categories, will continue to be sought after, and their prices will continue to rise, but ordinary books, mass market best sellers, book club editions, a lot of the titles Oprah likes, reprintings of standard classics will be rendered completely redundant by electronic editions and will wind up pulped. Before very long, no one will be willing to give them storage space.

Ht tip to Walter Olson.

18 Aug 2010

Feeling Old Yet?

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The New York Times reports that Beloit College felt a need to provide a cultural guide to equip faculty members to deal with first encounters with strange, new visitors from a different planet: the Class of 2014.

[H]ow is the class of 2014 different from previous classes? They’re more digital, of course.

First and foremost, few entering college this year have ever written in cursive. And this mobile phone generation has “never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.”

They also rarely use e-mail. Why? Because it’s just too slow. And you can imagine how much they use snail mail: “rarely.”

Another insight that shows how quickly things change is this one: The class of 2014 has “never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.” They don’t own watches and instead use their cellphones to tell the time.

The class also believes that there have always been “hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch” and that “Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.”

Hat tip to Ben Slotznick.

22 Jun 2009

Holden Caulfield in Worse Trouble Than Ever

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The Times reports that the Holden Caulfield alienation franchise is currently under attack by brand infringement.

(Last Wednesday,) a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order forbidding publication in the United States of “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” a takeoff on — J. D. Salinger’s lawyers say rip-off of — “The Catcher in the Rye,” written by a young Swedish writer styling himself J. D. California.

Until the judge makes her final ruling, Mr. Salinger’s fans will be spared the prospect of encountering Holden Caulfield, the ultimate alienated teenager, as a lonely old codger who escapes from a retirement home and his beloved younger sister, Phoebe, as a drug addict sinking into dementia.

But, matters are far worse than that: poor Holden’s 1950s vocabulary and teenage preoccupations have grown out-of-date, and nobody even feels sorry for him any more.

Holden may have bigger problems than the insults of irreverent parodists and other “phonies,” as Holden would put it. Even as Mr. Salinger, who is 90 and in ailing health, seeks to keep control of his most famous creation, there are signs that Holden may be losing his grip on the kids.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”

The alienated teenager has lost much of his novelty, said Ariel Levenson, an English teacher at the Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Holden’s home turf. She added that even the students who liked the book tend to find the language — “phony,” “her hands were lousy with rocks,” the relentless “goddams” — grating and dated.

“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things,” Ms. Levenson said, summarizing a typical response. At the public charter school where she used to teach, she said, “I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’ ”


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