Thus Diversity Flourishes

Jay McCarthy, reviewing a book I sent him to help rebuild his library after the fire that burned down his house, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid, translated by Natasha Wimmer, highlights one of the arguments the book makes: “Books are the most versatile media form because they support blockbusters and experimentation--they promote wealth, diversity, and creativity. This is because the barrier to entry is so much less than a movie or a television program, and thus a book doesn't have to make as much money to be justified, and thus it does not have to appeal to as many people to be published. Thus diversity flourishes and hits are possible.”

One argument that Jay does not highlight is the fact—and not argument, admittedly, but that this is not obvious strikes Zaid as strange—that books require no special device to read them. No software to install, no hardware to buy (and upgrade), no format lock-in. Books are extremely portable, are easy to write on for annotations and highlights, it's easy to keep the place of where you stopped reading (and you can stop and start reading whenever you want!), and they're cheap. Yes, cheap: for up to 30 dollars each for a hardcover and up to 20 dollars each for a softcover (or for about 40 dollars a year, at least in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, you can borrow them for a few weeks at a public library), you get hours and hours of entertainment and information and education. For me, I've stopped reading books for the information and ideas (okay, not quite), and have taken to reading simply because I derive pleasure from the act of reading. That's not to say there aren't I don't derive pleasure from other activities, but reading is and always be chief among them, and Gabriel Zaid's book made me fall deeper in love with reading books.

Jay also highlights a section suggesting that finding a good book is, because bookstores don't come close to stocking 1 percent of all books, that finding a good book—or, rather, the book you're looking for—is a miracle, to say the least. It's interesting that I found the book because it was on hold for me at the library. I don't remember every placing the hold. In fact, it was the first book that I don't remember every putting on hold. But seeing the title of it and reading the blurb on the back, I decided to give it a chance, and it turned out to be one of the best books I ever read.