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The Value of Books
I spent a pleasant evening last night having dinner with friends. One of the main topics of discussion was which books each of us was reading. Two of the men in the group said that they read entirely non-fiction, primarily books about history and politics, while several women said that they read mostly fiction. Several talked about reading several books at the same time, stacking them beside their beds so that they could read just before going to sleep.
Reading is indeed one of the activities that bring us together as friends and colleagues. We like to tell others about what we're reading and we learn about others by knowing which books they choose.
But which books have the most influence on us on a long-term basis? Which books are we likely to re-read? Which books are we likely to pass on to our children or grandchildren? As publishers we would like to be part of producing such books. As book collectors we want to choose which books to keep and which books to sell or recycle.
I have a variety of books on my desk, books which are important to me and to which I refer regularly. But mostly they are books that are well-written, well-designed and special in many ways.
I recently returned from Boston where Todd Anderson, Director of the University of Alberta Bookstore, and I gave a paper entitled Competing with Free at The Fourth International Conference on the Book. Many of the presenters were ardent defenders of the book as it exists today; some presenters showed us that at least some of the books produced in the future will be quite different from conventional paper books. All, however, were enthusiastic about the value of the book to our society.
Since we are approaching the Christmas season we'll see many people buying books as gifts. Most but not all of them will be read. I'm looking forward to a holiday season of reading, good food and fun. Best holiday wishes to those of you who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in November and Christmas in December.
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