Lectures, Community Events, Book Events

John Egerton Lecture

When: Sat., Feb. 5, 10:30 a.m. 2011

“Life moves fast in the waning era of print; publishing doesn’t,” warns a piece in The New York Times from 2008 on the uncertainty of the book industry. Once a taste-driven industry full of mom-and-pops known for nurturing — and discovering — emerging writers, publishing gave way to consolidations, then conglomerates, and with it came bloated sums thrown only at blockbuster novels and the payoff of the few barely sustaining the little guys. (Sound familiar? We’re looking at you, record industry.) Big book advances are now a gamble, not a guarantee, yet the blockbuster approach is here to stay — and along with it, the seemingly singular push of only commercial fiction. All this is to say nothing of the near-demise of the second-largest bookstore, Borders, and the alleged threat of the e-book (whose sales are said to have doubled last year and account for about 8 percent of total sales.) Heading the lecture on the issue — titled “The End Is Near!? 555 Years After Gutenberg Introduced the Printing Press, Are We Facing the Imminent Demise of Words in Print?” — is journalist, author and local literary treasure John Egerton, who’s published a few dozen books on the South, civil rights, food and education, and is one of the founders of the Southern Foodways Alliance. But perhaps more important to the discussion is that Egerton actually remembers when you could be one of those little guys and still find a publisher to put out your book, even if it was just an interesting idea for a niche audience. “I happen to be lucky enough to come along at a time when that was still possible,” he said in a lecture from 2006. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Tracy Moore

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