“The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books?,” James Patterson asks in an ad he took out in the New York Times Book Review, on the cover of Publishers Weekly, and in Kirkus Reviews. The ad continues: “Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines?”
There are, in fact, many impassioned editorials floating around about the state of books. Just recently, bestselling writer Scott Turow damned a recent Supreme Court ruling, calling it “The Slow Death of the American Author” in a New York Times op-ed. Turow’s op-ed drew a swift response from President of the American Library Association Maureen Sullivan. But Patterson raises a great point about what the government role should be in shoring up the flailing book industry.
The next question is which aspect of the industry, which entity or group needs the most support right now? Writers? Publishers? Libraries? Bookstores? Readers? It’s hard to know which hole to plug, there are so many.
So far, the government seems to be squarely on the side of readers. Most recently, The Office of Science and Technology Policy directed Federal agencies to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government” which met with mixed reaction by publishers.
Patterson says his aim is to “stir the pot a little bit” and advance the conversation about the challenges facing the book industry. Patterson told Publishers Weekly all stakeholders need to start thinking solutions rather than problems. In particular, the piece describes his frustration with “the same article about the book business being in trouble” being written over and over again, ad nauseam. Challenging the New York Times in particular to “wake the fuck up,” Patterson says “That article is not worth running.”