When a University of Houston-Victoria dean was considering the changes happening to the publishing industry in America, he noticed a striking similarity to the resurgence happening in another creative industry: vinyl records.
“Records went away with the change to cassette tapes, CDs and digital recordings, but they’ve come back with a fury,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “Books started to disappear after the development of digital media and ebooks, but they are coming back. However, they are not coming back the same.”
Di Leo explores changes in the publishing industry and how the rise of self-publishing and ebooks has impacted the American book culture in his latest book, “The End of American Literature: Essays from the Late Age of Print.” The book is published by Texas Review Press and includes 36 essays, all but one of which previously were published in the American Book Review literary magazine based at UHV.
The book’s title, “The End of American Literature,” references a growing trend in the publishing world. Now, as the internet and digital resources offer a global reach for books, there’s a shift to sell literature that appeals to a more global audience, not just U.S. readers.
At the same time, the rise of the ebook and Amazon have paved the way for a myriad of authors who self-publish books. In fact, self-publishing has become so prevalent that in 2018, the number of self-published U.S. books matched the number of books published by major publishing companies around the world. When Amazon launched its first Kindle reader in 2007 and opened the door to quick, easy self-publishing, it became the Gutenberg Press of this time period, Di Leo said.
“Everything changed for writers, publishers and the world when Johannes Gutenberg created his press, and something similar is happening now with the rise of ebooks and self-publishing,” Di Leo said. “There are signs in the publishing world that something is ending, but there’s also this feeling that something new is beginning, and that will have major implications for the industry.”
In his review of the book, H. Aram Veeser, a professor and director of the Master of Arts in English Literature program at The City College of New York, describes Di Leo’s perspective as “less despairing than bemused” when considering the implications of corporate greed in publishing. Although the book covers a broad spectrum of the many issues facing publishing and the changes in society that led to these issues, the logic used in these assessments is iron clad, he said.
“This volume is a vivid testimonial to independent non-corporate book reviewing and to the survival of places where thinkers … can continue to thrive and do fine work,” Veeser stated in the review.
The book can be purchased online through multiple sources, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Walmart. A copy is also available at Texian Books in downtown Victoria.