Lincoln Discussion Symposium

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The mainstay of the Surratt Museum's gift shop is the wealth of books that we have to offer on the assassination, general Lincoln topics, Victoriana, and of course, the Civil War. In order to clear space, two staff members and I spent several days determining which titles had been in stock for quite awhile and needed to be drastically reduced in price for easy sale. A list of about 25 titles will appear as sale items in the September issue of The Surratt Courier. 95% have been priced at $2 above our original wholesale cost. If you are not a museum member, but would like to receive the list, send me an email requesting it, and I shall email you a copy of that page as an attachment. laurie.verge@pgparks.com.

That said, as we put new price tags on these reduced-price books, I realized how the wholesale prices have increased so drastically over the years that we have been selling books (about 40 years). The wholesale prices are now above what the old-time retail prices used to be! In this list of 25, the average cost to us has been in the $15-$30 range -- in my opinion, a high price for retailers who expect to make any kind of profit.

At one point in my life, I worked as an editor and proof reader for a small printing firm. This was before computer-generated publications, and the price of the job was usually dependent upon the price of paper. In those days, publishers assigned editors to work with authors to clean up their manuscripts; the print job was set the old way - by humans; the publisher also assisted in publicizing the finished product and offered generous discounts for sizable orders from dealers.

Today, many authors have to find their own editors and proofreaders and present a clean, computer-generated, print-ready, final version to the publisher. Many have to hawk their own work without any assistance from the publishers. I understand that royalties have dwindled drastically. If anyone expects to get rich from the sale of their history book, forget it. Maybe Nora Roberts and James Patterson are living the good life, but...

So what does the future hold for both author and book dealer? Will everything be turned over to technology and Amazon sales? Will bookcases go out of fashion? How does one dog-ear a Kindle page or make notes in the margins? Will the technology versions of books soon rise in costs comparable to wholesale prices of printed works today?
From an author's point of view ---
In some ways, lightening printing companies and self publications companies are making publishing more difficult as well. Fewer books are being published in hardback format making the printing cost per book even more outlandish. By the time the wholesale price is calculated, and then the retails price is added, consumers find it more difficult to afford a quality printed book. I feel your pain regarding wholesale pricing.

I hope the future of publishing does not turn everything over to digital technology -- and don't even get me started on Amazon! If possible, I often have two copies of a book - hardback and soft cover. I use highlighters and write notes in the soft cover edition. I even color code my use of highlights -- pink for "stop this is incorrect" - yellow for "look this up elsewhere" -- green for "good to know" and blue for "total BS." I like my colorful markings. Call me old-fashion, but I just do not appreciate the appeal of reading on a Kindle.
I utterly agree, Donna!

I like the feel and smell of a "real" book in my hands! I collect 19th Century books and I love the smell of the old, yes, musty leather!

I DO have digital "books"/reading material on both my iPhone and iPad....but I prefer the real deal. John C Brennan, used to mark the same in books - and I do as well; only not with highlighters - that's a good idea, though! I use those little plastic colored stick on "PostIt" note thingies to mark each page which I first underline with pencil.....

My greatest fear is that kids today are forgetting what a library is and how to use one! They are too familiar with digital resources (many, many of which are horribly incorrect to use!) Unfortunately nowadays anything can be posted online and used for schoolwork; etc. And I've also seen too many digital "self-published" books published online and by Amazon which have horrid errors and really bad sentence structure and grammar - some of which is downright laughable! On plus side, there are some WONDERFUL self-published and well researched books online as well - and I can name quite a few....

Unless it is footnoted and documented, I will not cite it as a source - and fortunately, a lot of teachers do the same. In college, we were NOT allowed to use Wikipedia at all.....
One of my greatest thrills as an undergraduate at Illinois State University in the 1960's was to go to the "basement" of Milner Library, which had open stacks, and physically handle bound copies of journals such as The Atlantic and Harper's from the 1840's and 50's. I didn't do this often, though, because the paper was so fragile. Those journals have long since crumbled to nothing, but surely their contents remain, as digital files. If the digital publishing revolution has had one main strength, it has been its ability to arrest time's inevitable destruction of paper and microfilm. So, the great and less great authors of their times abide.

But we are paying a steep price for this. Here is only one problem: the relative ease of digital publishing has meant the degradation of standards which once made it easier to accept published content as worthy of consideration. Traditionally published books from reputable houses were generally well-written--virtually no misspellings, non-sentences, poor diction, bad punctuation, or bad grammar. Content was proofed. A reader would take such a book seriously because he knew that many others had. Now, anyone with a computer, a tablet, or a smart-phone publishes, if only on Facebook or Twitter. One doesn't need Scribner's or Knopf, he just needs access to the Internet. So, bad writing and factual errors abound. It's tough for a beginning researcher--say a student just learning to write a term paper--to know what is valuable and what is garbage.

I pity an English teacher today. But the true loser is his or her pupil.
(08-13-2016 06:26 AM)BettyO Wrote: [ -> ]I utterly agree, Donna!

I like the feel and smell of a "real" book in my hands! I collect 19th Century books and I love the smell of the old, yes, musty leather!

I DO have digital "books"/reading material on both my iPhone and iPad....but I prefer the real deal. John C Brennan, used to mark the same in books - and I do as well; only not with highlighters - that's a good idea, though! I use those little plastic colored stick on "PostIt" note thingies to mark each page which I first underline with pencil.....

My greatest fear is that kids today are forgetting what a library is and how to use one! They are too familiar with digital resources (many, many of which are horribly incorrect to use!) Unfortunately nowadays anything can be posted online and used for schoolwork; etc. And I've also seen too many digital "self-published" books published online and by Amazon which have horrid errors and really bad sentence structure and grammar - some of which is downright laughable! On plus side, there are some WONDERFUL self-published and well researched books online as well - and I can name quite a few....

Unless it is footnoted and documented, I will not cite it as a source - and fortunately, a lot of teachers do the same. In college, we were NOT allowed to use Wikipedia at all.....

Someone once contacted me and asked if Mary Lincoln truly invented peanut butter. Once I picked myself up from the floor after having a fainting spell from disbelief, I found the courage to inquire as to why this question was being asked. Someone had watched a cartoon (yes, a cartoon) television program where Mary Lincoln had invented peanut butter, but Lincoln thought it best to say that George Washington Carver did in order to improve race relations. The person went on to say that this information was also online.

Not only are we losing quality books, we are losing the our vocabulary. People no longer understand concepts such as satire, humor, and fiction.
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