Monday, February 02, 2009

Farewell to the Spinracks


Last October I had the opportunity to interview Tom Doherty for my newspaper, and I wrote a story about the Tor.com web site for the Sunday Entertainment page of my newspaper.

The interview was wide-ranging enough that I've been able to extract a second story, which I've offered to the SFWA Bulletin. In that story, I focused more on the particulars of the publishing business.

I learned a lot from Doherty about the recent history of the publishing business - all the more interesting to me since I never really paid any attention to it. I only started to write fiction in 2002.

One thing that stuck with me is how much more centralized book distribution has become - to the detriment of diversity and distribution. Doherty said those old "spin racks" which we used to see in retail stores and pharmacies were often a point of entry for people to the s-f and fantasy genres.

They've almost completely disappeared - the only place I see them anymore are Family Dollar and Dollar General Stores.

I was thinking of that this weekend as I pulled some books out of a box in storage and I found my mass market paperback copy of Diane Wynne-Jones "Tough Guide to Fantasyland".

I bought this book out of a spin rack at the ONLY grocery store in Ovilla, Texas, ten years ago. My newspaper had a small edition just for the city (which back then had barely 3,000 people) and I brought the papers to the store myself.

I happened to see the book in the rack and bought it. By the way, if you've never read it, it's VERY funny, tongue and cheek.

I see from the printing history that the first paperback edition was dated Dec. 1998, so it must be almost exactly ten years since I bought it. It shows that even ten years ago, these racks were still around.

Today, they're almost completely extinct.

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