Friday, March 14, 2008

A little Friday good spirits

I went for a bit of walk in Brooklyn this morning, and man, it's a beautiful day. After a sleepless night of wondering what's next, it's good to let the spirit of spring-coming maneuver me into hopeful, happy frame of mind.

And y'all are helping.

Thanks for the comments on my Wednesday post about publishing and the environment -- you've reminded me of some things I already knew, and strengthened my resolve to learn more. Greg Albers reminded me (and all of us) about the Green Press Inititative, a great source for learning and advocating about what can be done to make publishing greener. P.J. Grath, bookseller at Northport, hand-sold me on Cradle to Cradle, one of the core texts for thinking about the environmental life and impact of products. (And look! It's spring in Northport, too!) Kristiana mentioned the wastefulness of paper publisher catalogs, which was a big topic of discussion at the ABA publisher forums -- many publishers are considering going to electronic catalogs (which the booksellers supported, as long as we can still take notes on the online pages!) A publisher voiced his own commitment to using green options when offered by printers. And John of BookFox reminded us that as with indie bookselling itself, we don't have to (and shouldn't) rely on pure ethics or good will to make the move to green -- there's marketing potential here, and if we let people know that what we have to offer is what they're looking for, this can be a business benefit as well as a long-term survival benefit.

Keep them coming. If you have thoughts on how, why and whether the book industry can be more responsible in terms of its environmental impact, I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment on Wednesday's post, or send me an email and I'll collect your comments in a future post.

In the meantime, I have to thank Amanda, my fellow bookseller and optimist, for sending me this article in Salon about why all is not lost in terms of literacy for the under-21 set. Doris Lessing put herself in the same disappointing camp as John Updike with her fear-filled Nobel Prize acceptance speech that equated embracing technology with losing literacy. Amy Goldwasser challenges that notion convincingly at Salon. She points out some more of that same-old-story logic:

The average teen chooses to spend an average of 16.7 hours a week reading and writing online. Yet the NEA report did not consider this to be "voluntary" reading and writing. Its findings also concluded that "literary reading declined significantly in a period of rising Internet use." The corollary is weak -- this has as well been a period of rising franchises of frozen yogurt that doesn't taste like frozen yogurt, of global warming, of declining rates of pregnancy and illicit drug use among teenagers, and of girls sweeping the country's most prestigious high school science competition for the first time.
Sure, it's weird that not all teens know who Adolf Hitler was. But today at least, let's rejoice at what they do know, and what they're doing, and what might yet be done. As Robert Gray writes in today's Shelf Awareness, let's keep "casting with ferocious hope." Today, I know there are fish in the stream.