Last week, as I began cleaning out the drawers of the office I’ve worked in for about 15 of my 18 years at ITI, the refrain of a Woody Guthrie song got stuck in my head.
No, not that most famous of all Guthrie tunes (audio link) but rather a song about Woody being chased off by a “dusty old dust storm” that’s a’gettin’ his home.
You can listen to So Long It’s Been Good to Know You on YouTube now, if you like, or come back to it later. Either way, it’s a classic worth hearing.
But what, you may ask, is this dust storm that’s come up behind me to push me down the road? Well, I’d suggest it’s largely silicon dust that’s blowing, because years ago, before the internet infiltrated our lives, people read and purchased a lot of books. Times and reading habits have changed.
There’s no denying there are still millions of book lovers out there — as a reader of this column you likely count yourself among them — along with countless folk who rely on the long form for educational and professional reasons. And it would be unfair to blame the book crisis on the internet alone. The entertainment choices we have today are staggering, and as addicting as they are time consuming. Gaming and television along with social networking have usurped much of the human attention span that was once invested in books.
Any way you look at it, there has been a sea change and the book publishing business is struggling. Some say it’s on life support. A lot of talented and hard working publishing professionals have lost their jobs in recent years due to declining book sales and I’m just the latest to join their ranks.
I can’t and won’t complain about being downsized because I’ve seen it coming for years and my boss has bent over backwards to accommodate me. There’s a lot to be thankful for. Prior to 18 memorable years here, I worked just as many years for assorted publishing firms, including my own startup. I’ve collaborated with hundreds of gifted authors and colleagues, worked in diverse genres and formats, published award-winning fiction and nonfiction, and acquired and developed at least one New York Times bestseller that became an Emmy-winning tv series.
Of course there’s uncertainty about what the future may hold, but I’m looking forward to the next challenge. It is likely to be entrepreneurial in nature. (Becoming a member of AIIP — a marvelous association comprised of and supporting entrepreneurs — is going to be a big help.) About the only thing I feel sure of is that I will continue to help writers tell their stories.
It’s in me blood.
So this is my final ITI blog post and I want to use it to say goodbye. Before I do, I want to share with you some of the terrific titles we’ve been working on as the clock ticked down to Zero Hour. It’s been an honor to have worked with the authors and editors behind these books, and I can honestly say that every one of them was a pleasure to work with.
My 2016 “Swan Song” titles include:
Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, edited by the late Mimi Drake (a wonderful person to work with and to know) and Don Hawkins
The Accidental Taxonomist, 2nd Ed., by Heather Hedden
Online Teaching in K-12: Models, Methods, and Best Practices for Teachers and Administrators, edited by Sarah Bryans-Bongey (that’s my kid sister!) and Kevin Graziano
Indexing Tactics & Tidbits: An A to Z Guide, by Janet Perlman
The Future Scholar: Researching and Teaching the Frameworks for Writing and Information Literacy, edited by Randall McClure & Jim Purdy (third in a terrific series from ASIS&T – webpage to follow)
Watch for these books, take care, and I’ll see you when the dust settles.