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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters


Tomorrow is the Official First Day of Fall, But Some Large Change Seems Afoot

My last post was about databases and how schools are turning away from nonfiction books. Over the weekend three things happened that seemed to mark this as a clear moment of change.First, Milton Meltzer died. Ed Sullivan, who is writing his biography, wrote a detailed obituary and sent it around to various listservs (here it is) I first started working in children’s book in the 1980s, when Milton was published by Crowell, a company that had been purchased by Harper & Row and was still and imprint there (as was Lippincott). Milton was publishing the In Their Own Words books to great praise. That was a time when a major trade children’s house still published hardcover nonfiction aimed squarely at libraries. Milton himself had been working the fields since 1956 — his first book cowritten with Langston Hughes, and a social conscience and strong personal point of view ran through all of the subjects he chose and his approach to the material. But Harper eliminated its imprints and, like the other major houses, got out of the library-oriented-nonfiction business. In a way his passing is perfectly of a piece with the librarians I quoted who no longer want to buy books. 
       And yet, this morning also brought me news that The Local — that online version of the New York Times which covers the area where I live — is going to publish another piece I wrote "lit life: born in Maplewood Park ". So even as one style of book seems to be fading away, new opportunities for reaching the world are opening up. As that short Times piece shows — we managed to smuggle very, very recent images into a book due to jpegs, and InDesign changes we were able to make on a laptop. We are still dealing with print and books on press. But that digital world is changing how we do it, and how we tell the world. Something interesting is aborning in that.
       Which brings up the weekend’s third swing — the Times reports that the Justice Dept. has come out against the Google Book deal as it is spelled out now — but only in the interest of working out another, more fair, version of the same project. In other words, we may have rushed into things now, but, soon enough, there will be an endless online library of OP books. So once again change — that which is passing, that which is beginning, that which is soon to be. That is where we all are, just before fall, 2009.