Math, Geography, and Confusion

April 21st, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We are, admittedly, lousy at math and only so-so on geography. Or maybe it’s the other way around. When one article combines both, well, we can only hope to muddle through. Let us get through the math problem first:

Alas, the fans of serious—i.e., challenging—fiction are a group that figuratively fits in the palm of your hand. John O’Brien, of the Center for Book Culture, told me he thought this band may include no more than 35,000 people nationwide, and they’re concentrated largely around universities. Maybe, on a good day, up to a few hundred thousand.

So the number of (serious) literature readers is estimated in the low five figures (six if you count the comma), but jumps to a few hundred thousand on a good day? Not only does this beg the question of what makes a day good, but also where 200,000 or so readers go when the day is not so good.

This is so perplexing to us that we cannot be bothered to suss out whether the Book Babes mean unique users or hits when they discuss website traffic (the difference can be quite significant, if you care about such things).

Moving on. Next comes the puzzle of geography. We thought we’d finished with the fun of Judith Regan’s move to Southern California (though we remain very excited about the possibility of Culture), but it turns out we can prolong our pleasure. The Babes are suggesting that Regan’s move is all about making it easy to seal deals:

But publishing itself remains a Big City affair. The success of so many books now leans on their ability to be turned into films. Hence Regan’s move, which suggests that the book business, at least, isn’t getting flat so much as it’s tilting toward the entertainment world.

Let us pretend for a moment that major technological advances like fax machines and telephones and email and the World Wide Web do not exist. Cool tools forgotten? Excellent. Without these items, one must agree that being geographically close is desirable if one wants to sign an author to a contract while negotiating film rights (knowing that the delay of a five hour flight is unacceptable). Of course, it is helpful that motion picture studios have offices in many major cities, including New York City (specifically Manhattan).

Yes, these deals can be achieved — without moving an entire publishing entity cross country. Generally, the desire to work on the lot is directly related to consolidating power. You want to be seen lunching at the studio cafeteria (executive cafeteria, not the place where the little people dine).

All of this was so distracting, we forgot the thesis of the Babes column: litblogs and bringing news of books to eager readers. We think they concluded it’s a good thing. Either that or they exposed a heretofore unknown connection between Mark Sarvas and O.J. Simpson. We really should pay attention when reading.

File Under: Square Pegs