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BOOK CAPITAL OF THE WORLD?
May 8th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via wikipedia

Pay close attention to the above image.

It indirectly has to do with a topic that’s been going around here of late, including on this site.

The premise: Seattle has become the new nexus of the book industry.

Amazon now firmly pulls the strings of both print and e-book sales, at least in the realm of “trade books.”

Costco and Starbucks also hold huge influence over what the nation reads.

Nancy Pearl’s NPR book recommendations hold huge sway.

And we buy lots of books for local consumption, giving Seattle readers an outsized role in making bestsellers and cult classics.

See anything missing in the above?

How about actual “publishing” and “editing”?

Now to explain our little graphic.

Cincinnati companies once had an outsize influence in the TV production business.

Procter & Gamble owned six daytime soaps, which in turn owned weekday afternoons on the old “big three” networks.

Taft (later Great American) Broadcasting owned Hanna-Barbera, which in turn owned Saturday mornings on the networks.

But if you think of TV content actually shot in Cincinnati, you’ll probably remember only the credits to the L.A.-made WKRP In Cincinnati.

And maybe a similar title sequence on P&G’s N.Y.-made The Edge of Night.

We’re talking about one of America’s great “crossroads” places. A town literally on the border between the Rust Belt and the South, in a Presidential-election “swing state,” often overshadowed by cross-state rival Cleveland. A place with innumerable potential stories to tell.

But few of these potential stories have made either the small or big screens.

The last series set in Cincinnati was the short-lived Kathy Bates drama Harry’s Law.

The only TV fare made in Cincinnati has been a couple of obscure reality shows.

The lesson of the above: prominence in the business side of media content isn’t the same as prominence in the making of media content.

What of the latter, bookwise, is in Seattle?

Fantagraphics has tremendous market share and creative leadership in graphic novels and in comic-strip compilation volumes.

Amazon’s own nascent publishing ventures have, so far, aroused more media attention than sales.

Becker & Mayer packages and edits coffee-table tomes for other publishers, and now also provides books and “other paper-based entertainment… direct to retailers.”

The relative upstart Jaded Ibis Productions combines literature, art, and music in multimedia products for the digital era.

We’ve also got our share of university presses, “regional” presses, and mom-n’-pop presses.

Still, the UW’s English Department site admits that…

Seattle is not exactly a publishing hub… so job openings are very limited and most local presses are small and specialized.… In any location, those seeking jobs in editing and publishing far exceed the number of jobs available; competition is very vigorous.

And these are the sorts of jobs people relocate to get, or even to try to get.

Of course, Seattle also has many writers and cartoonists of greater and lesser renown. But that’s a topic for another day.


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