Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I feel Ms. Sifton's article should be required reading for all readers and writers. My small indie publisher has vocalized over many of these amazing but true business "practices" Ms. Sifton so eloquently discusses. I am always apalled at how little most of my published colleagues know about the publishing history and business.

I hope this article is widely read and discussed. Writers can pretend (and, surprisingly, still do) that everything is okay. But it isn't and it hasn't been for years and years.

Why am I reminded of the state of the auto industry?

Thank you, Ms. Sifton, for your thoughtful and informative piece.

Kit Sloane

Hidden Valley Lake, CA

Jun 7 2009 - 2:32pm

Web Letter

The Internet and other technologies cannot replace books. In fact, the Internet can be used to find books and to share the names of books with other people. Books, which have a slower pace, can be conforting.

Sean Mulligan

Alpharetta, GA

Jun 1 2009 - 7:04pm

Web Letter

Thanks to Elisabeth Sifton for her excellent article. I would add that trends away from reading "literature" cannot be entirely blamed on the rise of the Internet and corporatism. Rather, technology feeds a population growing ever more docile and fatuous in its tastes and preferences, while destroying social connections that may at least motivate a person towards expansive and critical thought. Culture simultaneously is being fabricated and trivialized in the process. Democracy is threatened, and the plight of book publishers may well be little more than just one more indication of a society of passive consumers who do not want to work at thinking, let alone having the responsibility of putting thought into any form of transformative action.

We prefer that any information we receive is pre-processed and little more than a new variation of the same repetitive themes. We are filled with facts that we choose to retain, and eschew information that requires any processing, integration, or (God forbid) personal challenge. As John Dewey stated almost 100 years ago, "Character that is unable to undergo successfully the strain of thought and effort required to bring competing tendencies into a unity, builds up barriers.... emotional distress incident to conflict is avoided not by readjustment but by effort at confinement" (Human Nature and Conduct). Our collective surge towards "viable information-retrieval systems" may be the ultimate realization of creating the convenient barriers necessary to claim lives without stress or challenge beyond choosing what to consume in blissful confinement. But the tragedy is that where Dewey pointed to those unable to successfully process competing factors, today we seem simply to choose not to do so.

Harold DeRienzo

New York, NY

May 26 2009 - 5:18pm

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.