BROOKE GLADSTONE: Much of the fear and loathing in the book biz can be summed up in two words, unsold books, unsold books that are sent back from bookstores to their publishers, trucked off to warehouses and eventually pulped.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER] In 1902, The New York Times ran a piece called Books that Die: The Tragic Fate of Unsold Books. The writer, George Owen Koch, began by observing that a new book was full of possibility. Who knew how far it would go? Quote, “Some volumes turn to the right and follow that branch of the path which leads them to readers, with whom they remain for a while. Others halt, and then turn to the left. Their way is short. In the undertaker’s shop of the stock dealer, the books that have died in the nursery for lack of attention meet brothers who have seen the world and have been worn out in the service of mankind. But to the funeral director, they are all the same. Put into bales weighing from 500 to 1500 pounds each, the books are sent on the last stage of their journey to the cemeteries of the mills, where, during interment in great tubs, they undergo a cleansing and altering process truly purgatorial, to emerge free from stains of inky sins, but books no longer. As man begins movement toward the grave at the moment of his conception, so a book starts on its way to the boiling vats of the mill at the moment of its inspiration. Some volumes, like some men, reach a great age, yet final disintegration is inevitable. There are uncommon instances of the petrification of human bodies after life is extinct. There are instances of the petrification of old volumes after a period of usefulness. But ‘these, too, shall pass away,’ for, books and men are embalmed permanently only in memory.”
[MUSIC/MUSIC UP AND UNDER] That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Mike Vuolo, Nazanin Rafsanjani, Jamie York, Mark Phillips, Michael Bernstein and P.J. Vogt, with help from James Hawver and Dan Mauzy, and edited by me. We had technical direction from Jennifer Munson and more engineering help from Zach Marsh. Special thanks to all of our readers and to WNYC Program Director Chris Bannon for his banjo picking.
Katya Rogers is our senior producer and John Keefe our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone.