Friday News: National Book Critics awards, Japan’s book market, and hyperfiction
Paul Beatty, Maggie Nelson, Sam Quinones among winners of 2015 Book Critics awards – Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction, while Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts won the award for criticism. A full list of winners can be found here.
The poetry award went to Ross Gay for his collection “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” which was also a finalist for an NAACP Image Award and a National Book Award.
Gay described his book in an interview with The Times: “I wanted to realize joy as a fundamental aspect of our lives and practice it as a discipline. Joy, at least the way I understand it, comes from the realization that we’re all going to die.” . . .
Kirstin Valdez Quade was awarded the John Leonard First Book Prize for “Night at the Fiestas,” and Carlos Lozada, a nonfiction book critic for the Washington Post, was given the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
Behind the Scenes / Slumping publishing industry at crossroads – A very interesting article on way the publishing downturn in Japan is also affecting bookstores, especially brick and mortar stores. The trend is familiar to those who have watched the U.S. book market over the past five to ten years, with the closing of well-known bookstores (both independent and chain) and the rise of digital consumption and publication, facilitated especially by the ubiquity of smartphones, on which consumers can read digital versions of magazines, especially, which have been key to the vitality of Japanese bookstores. Consequently, bookstores are innovating to draw more interest and business. Interestingly, the number of published titles remains high (more than 76K) as compared to 20 years ago (15K).
Why are booksellers facing a business crisis? Shibuya cites the impact of declining sales of fashion magazines and comics.
Readers buy magazines periodically, so in comparison to books, they provide publishers and booksellers with a stable source of income and also form the foundation for the publishing industry’s distribution structure, including the consignment system (see below).
However, Masaharu Kubo, a researcher at the Research Institute for Publications, remarks that “smartphones allow users to easily get information anywhere, so the habit of spending money on magazines has declined.”
Sales of magazines sharply declined by 8.4 percent in 2015 from the previous year, a faster rate of decline than for books, which only saw a 1.7 percent drop and were helped in part by bestsellers such as Naoki Matayoshi’s Akutagawa Prize-winning novel “Hibana,” which sold over 2.4 million copies.
According to a study by publisher Arumedia, there were 13,488 bookstores nationwide in 2015. The rise of online bookstores has had an impact on the number of brick-and-mortar stores, which has fallen by more than one-third from 15 years ago. This trend parallels the decline in the sales volume of publications, which by 2015 had dropped by over ¥1 trillion from the 1996 peak of ¥2.65 trillion. – Japan News
Storytelling and the hype of hyper fiction – I reported on some of the new interactive books published by Google Play not too long ago, and Rabble’s Wayne MacPhail notes their similarity to works of hyperfiction in the 1990’s — namely, stories that “can only exist on a computer” because of their non-linear, multi-directional narratives. MacPhail suggests that the “new” claim of the works at Google Play is, shockingly, overstated, and he similarly predicts that this updated form of hyperfiction will not take hold:
A few of the interactive books are now available through Google Play Books. I’ve looked through a couple of them, The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Entrances and Exits. And, while it is true, they are works of fiction that could not exist on paper, they are also works of fiction that are frustrating, confusing and feel like literary masturbation more than works of art.
I imagine these experiments will suffer the same fate as the hyperfiction of the early ’90s. I think humans like our stories told to us, not discovered by us in a labyrinth of links. Even when those stories are told backwards, as in Memento, by an unreliable narrator, as in The Usual Suspects or with reveals within reveals as in The Prestige, we like narratives that, when the pieces are assembled, tell a cohesive tale we can all agree we saw in whole, even though we may have different opinions about what it means, as in Inception. So, I no longer think different media engender different kinds of narrative. We remain, somewhere deep in our brains, toolmaking monkeys just looking for a fire, a shaman and tale to fall asleep to. – Rabble