VJ Books Blog

(www.bworldonline.com, Dec. 23, Dennis Posadas)

The traditional book industry is in a quandary these days. In this time of home foreclosures, industry and job layoffs, factory shutdowns, etc., the last priority on some people’s minds is to buy a book. This is why Random House decided to release a video (and I urge you to look at it) urging everyone to consider giving a book as a present this Christmas and for most gift giving occasions. See the video entitled Books Make Great Gifts at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OXs7tnP5eQ.

In the video, authors like Elmo, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, Jon Stewart, Chris Paolini, Frank McCourt, Maya Angelou, Alec Baldwin, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Bill O’Reilly, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Julie Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark, Nora Ephron, Dan Brown, Rachel Ray, and John Lithgow exhort the public to buy books and give them as presents. Obviously, the video is in response to an expected slump this 2009. So it will really be tough.

Personally, although I wouldn’t mind getting an Amazon Kindle, I think that there is something to be said for the traditional book. First of all, it doesn’t require a battery. Try reading a novel and finding the need to recharge your e-book reader in the middle of a critical scene. Plus, the traditional book is also shockproof if you drop it. Besides, what would I do with a full library of books when I often read one book at a time anyway?

Whether it is through e-books, or through traditional books, more Filipinos need to have their ideas heard in the international stage. After all, many of us are familiar with American culture, traditions and thinking, not because we have been to the US per se, but because we are overwhelmed with their movies, their television programs, and above all, their books and magazines.

It is hard to believe that out of several hundred thousand American and foreign books that are published internationally, we can only manage a handful. Are we that stupid? Of course not! It is simply plain discrimination against our Filipino ideas and values.

But to some extent, we have ourselves to blame. Just go to any university, and you find a photocopying shop that blatantly reproduces and pirates many copyrighted books. What foreign publisher would take a risk with a country that doesn’t buy books and pirates a lot of what is out there? Very few, if at all. That is why, although publishers have to lower their prices, consumers and readers also have to plunk down money to support the industry. It is a give and take situation in order to survive.

Just like in the recording industry, the Internet has to some extent decimated the traditional publishing industry. With so much stuff to read for free in the Internet, sometimes we have a hard time justifying why we need to pay for published ideas when we can get them for free on the Web. But understand that you often pay for what you get. Although the Web has a lot of vetted (or editorially reviewed) ideas and articles, oftentimes a lot of the material is self-published and of dubious value. So there is still something to be said for the traditional, slow and meticulous publishing industry. For all its faults, it has also given us — over the many centuries that Gutenberg invented movable type — a mostly reliable and fact-checked body of ideas, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

Whether we like it or not, the Internet is here to stay. But I hope the future will not degenerate into a situation where all readers expect all content to be free. If that becomes the case, then there will be no incentive for writers to produce good works, and for publishers to vet these works.

Reading is a form of telepathic travel. You may not have been to a place physically, but the writer transports you mentally as if you were there. This is why we have such a bad reputation overseas, only the bad things get written about us, but defenders of the Philippines’- way of life, our culture, our beliefs, our values, etc. never get heard or read beyond our shores.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Instead of buying an electronic game or something mindless, consider giving the gift of knowledge, something where you actually have to do some work.

Buy a book. Merry Christmas to everyone!

(This column is dedicated to the memory of a good friend of many Filipino authors, who recently passed away.)
E-mail the author at dennisposadas@yahoo.com