From today’s Wall Street Journal:
Vivien Jennings had long noted the people fidgeting in their chairs, staring at their watches, playing with their smartphones—the silent scream of “when will this be over?”—as novelists, memoirists and historians stood behind a lectern and read a chapter or three from their latest work.
“We were just losing our audiences,” said Ms. Jennings, the owner of Rainy Day Books, an independent bookstore in Kansas City, Kan. Finally, several years ago she made a decision: The shop would sponsor only author events that featured a conversation or a minilecture, a PowerPoint presentation or perhaps a slide show, all followed by a question-and-answer session and—at most—the recitation of a paragraph or two from the book to illustrate a point. “I tell publicists ‘it’s no longer a reading,’” Ms. Jennings said. “If they want their authors to come here, they’ll go along with it.”
For decades, the bookstore reading was a given. It gave fans a chance to hear the cadences and inflections of a beloved author, and to decide if they wanted to lay down their plastic right then and there or maybe wait for the paperback. “When I first started, it was readings, readings, readings. Nobody considered that you could do anything else,” said Evan Boorstyn, the deputy director of publicity at Grand Central Publishing.
. . . .
Americans’ ever-shrinking attention span and an ever-shrinking number of leisure hours are also issues. “We’re asking for people’s time and we’re competing with other experiences they could use the time for. We want them to leave the event saying ‘wow,’” said Ms. Jennings, who’d like to say something similar when she looks at the cash register receipts after one of these events. One recent example: a visit from Vanessa Diffenbaugh, who spoke about the foster-care system—a theme of her debut novel, “The Language of Flowers”—and who gave a PowerPoint presentation about the significance of particular nosegays in the Victorian era.
. . . .
For his part, Brad Meltzer, the best-selling author of thrillers like “The Book of Fate” and “The Book of Lies,” stopped doing readings two books ago. “Jim Dale,” he said, referring to the voice of the “Harry Potter” audio books, “and all the audio-book stars made most of us authors look like a bunch of misfits. We can’t compete.” Mr. Meltzer instead regales crowds with background stories about his books, with tales of the 24 rejection letters he received at the beginning of his career and film clips of him folding his arms in assorted tough guy poses from his History Channel series, “Decoded.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire after a few days) and thanks to Abel for the tip.
Having suffered through about two trillion lame Powerpoint presentations, Passive Guy has his doubts about their attractiveness for today’s audiences. (Is there anyone outside of the publishing world who thinks they’re innovative?)
Unless someone is paying him to sit through a presentation, about three seconds after he begins fidgeting in his chair, staring at his watch or playing with his smartphone, he exits the premises.