Jason Epstein (ex-editor at Random House, co-founder of the New York Review of Books, loving spouse of Judith Miller, etc.) reminds me of the final scene of Nineteen-Eighty-Four in which the hero, having betrayed every principle, lost all belief, is reduced to the role of a coffee-shop intellectual rationalizing his life away. As Oceania was at war with Eastasia so, too, Kindle's now at war with paper books; and Epstein worries that "Das Kapital...will now enjoy greater access than before to susceptible readers."
It's inspiring to think that certain books—like Kapital—are endowed with a will of their own; not because readers will have access to these books, but because these books will have access to readers, should the books ever decide to go looking for them. I guess that's why Jason helped develop a machine that prints books on demand: so books can find their readers. I guess that's why NYU's campus bookstore refuses to carry my books, even though I'm on the faculty there: my books aren't looking hard enough. As Our College President John Sexton says, "there are the knowledge purveyors and the knowledge creators," and if some professors are creative and others not, the same must be true of books. Some books go out and find their readers for themselves; others (like mine, it seems) don't have the git-go gumption to check themselves into the right bookstores or make themselves available in Jason's magnificent machine.
Therefore I am proud as Poppa to see that my books have finally got off the couch and spontaneously decided to be sold. (Next they'll be bringing a nice translation home for dinner.) My friend Everett—the guy who sells used books in front of NYU's Bobst Library on Washington Square—now carries a few copies of The Red Museum. Everett can be found there on weekends, weekdays his type of creativity (the First Amendment kind) doesn't seem to sit well with Administration. Everett and I had some difficulty coming to an agreement, however, since I've taken un-creativity to new heights by suggesting a pay-as-you-can price. Everett say he hates to haggle, so I didn't explain that most people who've bought The Red Museum so far have paid more, not less, than I expected; but since it's unlikely prison inmates will turn up for their free copy we agreed, Everett and I, to offer the book at the bottom price of $5.00 for the unincarcerated. Feel free, of course, to offer more if your status demands it; and if you really insist on paying a fair price you can contact me directly; you can even paypal me, or ask for a .pdf, half-price, and you can bind the book yourself if you're handy with a needle.
We now return to Jason Epstein, mulling over his paper, moaning about the new and evil ways these grubber yung books have chosen to distribute themselves.
He always loved big Borders...
A "Dear John" Letter