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Book Facts

Here’s a letter to the Boston Globe:

James Carroll interprets Borders bankruptcy as evidence that corporations’ involvement over the past 20 years in book retailing has spawned “massive cultural impoverishment” in America (“As stores die, so does book culture,” July 25).  With “sacred” independent booksellers destroyed by the “predatory capitalism” of big-box retailing (and now also by the “screen technologies” of e-books), Mr. Carroll is convinced that illiteracy and ignorance stalk the land.

The only evidence that Mr. Carroll gives for the demise of the book, however, is “the shrinking number of published book reviews” and “today’s shallow political discourse.”  Were Mr. Carroll actually to look at the data (Oh how cold and factual; fit only for a Gradgrind!) he’d find that the number of new titles and editions published in the U.S. has risen spectacularly over the past 20 years.  In 1990, 46,738 new book titles were published in the U.S.  In 2002 the number was 247,777; in 2005 it was 282,500, and in 2009 the total number of new titles and editions published in the U.S. was a whopping 1,335,475 – the last figure reflecting the huge increase in the number of e-books whose publication is made possible by the ‘predatory capitalists’ and the “screen technologies” that Mr. Carroll is so very certain keep Americans from reading.

Donald J. Boudreaux