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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Should We Be Optimisitic or Pessimistic?

About what — you will surely ask. Well about the nation, about the economy, about politics — all of those big issues that have us nervously wagging our heads and feeling sage and sad. But more to the point of this blog, about books for younger reader, and, especially about nonfiction? In one way, certainly pessimistic. The weak economy hits schools, school libraries, librarians — all of us suffer when states and towns have to tighten their belts. The boom in digital which is what gives a gleam of hope to publishers and even potential investors in B&N hss a long way to go before making digital nonfiction products is easy and cheap enough for current authors to consider, and before our traditional buyers — libraries, parents, schools, teenagers – fall in love with digital nonfiction content. Indeed it is not even clear what digital NF should be — in which ways going digital enhances what we do. And if it doesn’t allow us to do what we do better, than why should we do it?

And yet I am an optimist. I see opening in what may also be viewed as cracking. For one, it is a time of experiment in digital format: no guarnatees, but also few rules of the roads. Suddenly there is a new way to sell “long form journalism” — the article of over 5000 words that is not a book. Various outlets for long form pieces now exist on the net and there will be more. As an editor I heard many great proposals where we would say, “that is an article, not a book” — now there will be homes for those pieces, and thus more NF — more NF in a length kids like and teachers can use. Digital, to me, is not just a format, it is also an opportunity for connection. Marina and I leave for India later this month to speak at Jump Start — a conference on developing better children’s publishing in India. I am coming with an idea for a project that would link teenagers in India and America, and then others around the world. And then there is the whole Common Core approach to Language Arts that we have discussed here.

So I think a healthy caution mixed with an eagerness to explore the new — to me that is the mood of the moment. How do you see it?


  1. I’m cautiously optimistic. When there is a crisis in the world, people–including kids–usually want to become more informed in order to understand it. While many will seek information on the Internet, there are still plenty of readers who want more in-depth information from a book, or e-book. So I feel this will be a good time for certain nonfiction topics that relate to the crises we currently face, such as fluctuating world economies, civil unrest, politics, and the like. I also think that escapist fiction will find a solid market–for as much as some people want to be informed, others will want to get lost in an adventure that takes them away from the stresses of the day.

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    both makes sense — need for information, and for escape, good point