Turning the Page on a New Generation of Publishers

As I sit on the MAX on my way into Portland, I flip through the pages of my beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Every few stops, I find myself glancing up from the pages to look around at the passengers who are coming and going from the train on its way into the city. I notice an older man is fast asleep while the woman next to him stares out the window, a mother reties her son’s shoes, and a young man in a college hoodie taps his feet to the beat of whatever tune must be playing in his headphones. While I flip to the next page, I notice that I’m the only passenger in the car who is reading a book, while the majority of other passengers keep their eyes glued to their phones.

When I was in the process of applying to the book publishing program at Portland State University, numerous people asked why I would want to go into an industry that is becoming more digital by the day. Young and old people alike seem to be turning their backs on paperbacks and tuning in to the digital world instead, so why would I want to pursue a career that involves making printed poetry compete with social media’s latest meme or Harry Potter in audiobook form? As my MAX stop arrives, I walk to campus with thoughts still swirling in my head about the future of the print book industry in a society that is becoming more digitally dependent. Can it survive? Who will care about printed books once audiobooks take over? Will the kids of the future ever come to know the beauty of that “new book” smell?

With all of these questions circulating in my mind, I walk into the publishing lab classroom at Ooligan Press and see the faces of so many other young individuals who are driven to ensure that the legacy of printed publication does not die out. Rather, after scanning the classroom, I see that the future of publishing looks quite young and well versed in the digital age, but also driven by the passion to keep page turning alive. While many readers have turned to new forms of digital media to get their page-turning fix, programs and presses similar to Ooligan reveal that younger people are still very engaged in the publication of print media, maybe even more so than ever before.

Technology has allowed authors, editors, publishers, and printers around the world to connect in a way that is unparalleled in publishing history. This new medium has brought forth a new generation of writers and readers who are capable of creating print media not only at a faster rate, but in a way that allows them to reach readers of all ages and languages around the globe. As a young reader and writer beginning my journey in the world of printed publication, I am seeing a new phase of page turning unfold with many young faces beside me. To all the doubters that feel the printed page is on its last leg, I laugh and continue to turn the page on a new era of publishing that has found a way to coexist with a world that’s become increasingly digital. A younger generation has now stepped up with fingers that can type faster, tweet out book promotions louder, connect authors to audiences face-to-face via webcams, and prove that the “new book” smell is just as intoxicating as ever. I look forward to pursuing a career in the printed word alongside writers and readers who can live a balanced life in the technology universe while still enjoying curling up with a good book.

Independent Bookstore Day Is Back!

Bookstores in Portland and beyond will celebrate the second Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) on Saturday, April 30, with special events and nifty literary merchandise. The day highlights a growing momentum of support among readers and writers for independent booksellers all over the country. And there’s no bigger fan than Portland writer Ruth Tenzer Feldman, author of Blue Thread, The Ninth Day, and the forthcoming Seven Stitches.

“My favorite thing about indie bookstores is that they are indie,” she said. “Duh! It’s that simple. Each bookstore has its own personality, its own responsiveness to the community it serves. As a participant in the Crazy Eights author tours, I’ve visited an eclectic bunch of indie bookstores across Oregon, some of which I wouldn’t have managed to see on my own. Each was a delight. Unpredictable, quirky, and yet offering the same welcome to readers and writers that is the essence of indie.”

I asked Feldman about the role indie bookstores fill in today’s marketplace. “What comes to mind here is biological diversity,” she said. “An odd analogy, I suppose, but the way I see it, indie bookstores add vigor to the gene pool.” By accommodating local needs, she says, bookstore owners help to “expand the possibilities that a literate and literary community will thrive.”

Bestselling author Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) would agree. As this year’s Independent Bookstore Day Author Ambassador, she believes IBD “joyously celebrates the literary ecosystem and shows how symbiotic the relationship is between readers, writers, and bookstores, and how essential they all are in sustaining the contemporary written word.”

Participating bookstores in the Portland area—Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books, and Jan’s Paperbacks—will feature these and other items made just for the event:

  • The Care & Feeding of an Independent Bookstore by Ann Patchett, signed by the author
  • Anthony Bourdain’s “Perfect Burger” print, signed by the author
  • Third edition of the Bad Citizen stencil series, with a quote by Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
  • Set of two 100 percent cotton literary tea towels
  • Bookstore cats zippered pouch
  • A Neil Gaiman coloring book
  • Raymie Nightingale, signed by Newbery Award-winner Kate DiCamillo
  • Draw Me! with step-by-step instructions on how to draw Mo Willem’s Pigeon, Curious George, and Fly Guy

Find this fascinating stuff and more at these participating bookstores:

Annie Bloom’s Books, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland, OR 97219

Broadway Books, 1714 NE Broadway St., Portland, OR 97232

Jan’s Paperbacks, 18095 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy., Aloha, OR 97003

Sold yet? A final word from Feldman should get you out the door: “Indie bookstores encourage and inspire me. I’m not in this crazy business alone.”

National Independent Bookstore Day is sponsored in part by Penguin Random House, Ingram, and The American Booksellers Association. IBD is produced by Samantha Schoech in partnership with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA). Click here for more information.