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Books vs. readers

Kevin Larimer writes in the online edition of Poets & Writers magazine of a surprising preference that appears to be held among poets. As part of an informal poll, Joseph Bednarik, marketing director of the prestigious American poetry house Copper Canyon Press, asked poets “whether they would prefer ‘a beautifully produced physical book, with the guarantee that it would find two thousand engaged readers” or “no physical book, but the guarantee that, through various means of publication — anthologies, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and so on — the poems would find an audience of twenty thousand engaged readers.” Bednarik included the following caveat: Either choice has equal effect on job security and advancement, review attention, and financial rewards.

“To be honest, the results were startling to me,” he tells Larimer. “Everybody I talked to early on wanted a physical book and was content with a finite readership. I simply couldn’t believe it, because my impulse is to expand readership.”

To better understand the implications of these findings, one may consider that in Canada, the market is generally considered one-tenth the size of the U.S.’s. If a similar question were asked of Canadian poets, it could be rephrased thus: “Would you rather publish a book and attract 200 readers or have no book but 2000 readers?”

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Click here for the Poets & Writers article