Wanting to comment on Betsy Bird’s post about the last ten years I went looking for a moniker and found the Noughties. Nope, not the Naughties, but the Noughties as in noughts, the 2000s. While not as familiar perhaps to zero-using Americans, it feels less cumbersome than other indicators (even if it got me thinking of Enid Blyton’s Noddy).
So anyway, Betsy does a stellar job looking back over these past ten years. I just want to consider a few of her points and add a couple of my own.
The Rise of the Children’s Book Phenomenon
I’m not sure I totally agree with Betsy on this one. Setting aside Harry Potter and Twilight for a moment (as I think they stand out in a significant, but different way), the enthusiasm for a series like Wimpy Kid seems not so terribly different to me than the enthusiasm in earlier times for Goosebumps and the Babysitters Club. What has changed is that we now have a critical mass able to read, write, promote, rant, and otherwise communicate on the Internet, a more populist, if you will, way for authors and readers to connect. And so you’ve got Jeff Kinney moving back and forth between virtual and actual comic, to give one example. My guess is that if the same environment had been available in the heyday of Stine and Martin that things would have been very similar (especially with Stine). As for Philip Pullman’s trilogy, while I love it (he’s up there with Carroll in my personal pantheon of favorite authors), it doesn’t fit for me either in this category. Rather, it seems very much a part of a traditional of grand children’s books in the tradition of Lewis. A wonder, but not a phenomenon, at least not as I see it.
That said, I do agree with Betsy about Harry Potter and Twilight. Most of all about Harry Potter. That series did indeed change the landscape of our tiny world of children’s publishing in signficant ways. It caused the New York Times to start a separate best seller list for children’s books and then series books (which caused quite a stir at the time). A remarkable fandom grew and thrived in the ever-developing Internet — the Leaky Cauldron being only the most prominent of a number of fan sites — and, of added significance, Rowling interacted with those fans in smart and careful ways. The savvy release of the books (starting with the fourth one) was absolutely groundbreaking. Twilight and its sequels definitely thrived in this new environment and I would guess there will be others down the line.
The Rise of YA Fiction
I agree with Betsy on the signficance of this. And like her I would note the synergy as the authors and books moved fluidly from print book to website to youtube to television to film. It is a form or term that seems to be in the process of being redefined — no longer for ages 12 -18, but for true young adults — those out in the world, but still maturing and enjoying these books. I am very curious about what will happen as the young fans of these books grow up and come into the world of publishing. I’m guessing they will help shape the world of YA literature in interesting new directions. I’d love to see YA get its own division in publishing houses, one not part of children’s or adults. A place where crossover books like Octavian Nothing, The Book Thief, and others would be properly promoted as being for true young adults — teens and twenty-somethings alike.
The Rise of Blogging and Other Online Media
To me this is the most significant aspect of the past ten years. Not just blogs, but fan sites, author sites, and so much more. Readers of all ages feel comfortable emailing and communicating with favorite authors in a way that was rare in the previous century. (In 1995 Scholastic gave me a modem and an AOL account to help launch what was probably the first publisher Internet site — Scholastic Network. They soon moved from AOL to the Web and never looked back, but I remember running their author and book bulletin boards and it was a new world indeed.) Facebook, twitter, and more — all very exciting stuff. Who knows what is next?
The Life and Death of the Children’s Periodical
Betsy notes the passing of The Riverbank Review and Kirkus. Having been published in both I see them as distinctly different situations. The Riverbank Review was a beautiful journal, filled with lovely articles, columns, and reviews. It was, to my mind, in the tradition of the small and elegant literary magazine. Over the decades and centuries these come and go. Some get the financing to keep going and some don’t, sadly. Now I don’t know how many similar journals focused on adult books similarly bit the dust in the last decade, but I have to wonder if it is any more or less than in previous years.
Kirkus, to my mind, is different. For one thing it was purely a review journal and secondly it was for all books, not just children’s books. To me the end of Kirkus is part of a bigger trend involving traditional print book review publication. That is, newspapers have been getting rid of their stand-alone book review sections too. And what with the rise of the online unmediated reader reviews (say those of amazon and bloggers) it will be most interesting to see where reviewing in general will go.
The ebook or Lack Thereof
I think this is another area that is rising and we have to wait to see what happens. Just last week one of my 6th grade Book Bloggers showed me the Kindle she got for Hanukkah. College textbooks are starting to become available digitally (which is great because they’ve become outrageously expensive, I think). As technology makes comics, animation, book trailers, and multi-media (think of Scholastic’s Carman series combining book and video) easier and easier to do I see more and more movement into the digital place. This doesn’t mean print books won’t be there too, just that the playing field is shifting.
And now in brief, a couple from me:
This seems another very signficant development. I mean, what about Eragon? I remember Christopher Paolini on adbooks promoting his self-published book and reading the first chapter on his website (now long, long, long replaced by one by his publisher). More recently, reporting about a HarperCollins preview this fall, Betsy noted several originally self-published books they were featuring. It sure seems easier than ever to publish your own book and it seems evident that the major publishers are paying more attention to those that sell.
The Continuing Evolution of Literary Nonfiction
I’m very impressed with the stellar nonfiction coming out these days and am hopeful that more is on the way. This year, in particular, has been a great one for this genre.
Interesting times. Interesting times.