Two from Library Journal

LJ editor Wilda Williams conducts an annual survey of the current mystery market with a twist – this time her focus is on audiobooks and large print:

This June, mystery authors and fans will flock to England for CRIMEFEST, a new biennial international convention where the first winner of the Audible Sounds of Crime Award for best crime audiobook, sponsored by Audible UK, will be announced. In recent years, audiobooks have developed into a

growth market for publishers, but this new prize, along with the

nomination of the serial audio thriller The Chopin Manuscript (see sidebar, p. 39) for the Audiobook Publishers Association’s prestigious Audiobook of the Year award, reflects the explosive popularity of mystery and suspense in the format.

“There’s something about the genre that lends itself particularly well to audio,” says Macmillan Audio publisher Mary Beth Roche, noting that pacing and mood, so important to

mystery, are elements that can be conveyed well in audio. Teresa

Jacobsen of the Solano County Public Library,

Fairfield, CA, agrees. “What really hops out the door are thrillers and

mysteries on audio CD,” she says. “I work with a lot of commuters, and

they all want action-packed reading.”

Also in LJ, author and librarian Barbara Fister suggests a radical rethink of the anti-used bookstore and library sentiment creeping into literary and mystery culture:

I hang out with crime fiction writers, and lately the

curmudgeonly tone of the conversation has surprised me. “Are libraries

unethical?” was asked not long ago on an online writer’s forum. The

general consensus was that the whole sharing thing is a bit dodgy, but

libraries aren’t all bad because they buy a lot of books. On the other

hand, buying used books is entirely unethical, as is using online book

swap sites or passing books on to friends. After all, authors only make

money off the sale of new books; without sales, they will be dropped by

their publishers and readers will lose out. The solution? Take a leaf

from the Recording Industry Association of America

(RIAA) and educate readers that Sharing Is Bad. Or, as one writer

suggested, print books on paper that self-destructs after three

readings. Then people would have to buy new books.

The idea of self-immolating books is hard for a book lover to

fathom, and avid readers are not likely to be persuaded that sharing

books is morally wrong. What’s more, it’s not at all clear that

preventing sharing would be good for business. Without the

word-of-mouth publicity that comes largely through exuberant sharing,

most author’s works would go unnoticed. In any case, sharing is a fact

of networked life: used books begin to circulate as soon as new ones

are published, through swap and sale sites. There’s no stopping it,

short of mass book burnings or a revision of copyright law too horrible

to contemplate.

Even though Fister admits that some of her solutions to the publishing industry’s problems “are a bit fantastical,” her main point is very much worth making: “ Every person whom I’ve met in the publishing business cares

deeply about books and wants above all for them to find readers. Why

not help one another out? With imagination, collaboration, and some

technical innovations that are just over the horizon, we can come up

with solutions that stick.” Hear hear.