The lack of role for book publishers hurts writers and readers

Regarding your opening August 3 “Put authors and readers first in terms of the merger of major publishers” In 1999, I went to New York on the day my novel, A Hard Time, was published, only to discover that everyone at Delacorte Press had been fired that day, including my editor, who had sworn to silence before the public announcement.

Bantam Doubleday Dell was acquired by the German publishing giant, Bertelsmann, which itself was a consolidation of those three printing presses. They kept Delacorte’s imprint but none of the staff. I have continued my fortunate career, with an editor at William Morrow and Co. Which supports my sometimes controversial books, but most mediocre writers aren’t so lucky.

Bertelsmann went on to get the Random House and the Viking Penguin. All of these companies are now part of a single legal entity. This has been bad for readers, writers, and people who work in the industry. Every time publishers merge, they cut jobs across the board. In a recent merger between Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt, they cut 1,200 jobs.

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The number of published books is not declining, but editors and educators are now dealing with many titles and cannot give most of them the attention that every writer deserves.

When big media companies like Disney started buying the publishing imprints in the 1990s, it changed the culture of publishing. These reinforcements marked the beginning of the number seven and eight’s advance to a handful of writers. The number of books the average reader buys remains fairly constant.

To offset these developments, publishers must allocate the bulk of their advertising budgets to their stars. This skewed publicity in an effort to create blockbuster movies from big-ticket titles. Readers may buy these blockbuster movies, but they also won’t search for books published in smaller ways. Most books are published in smaller ways.

When I was president of Mystery Writers of America, I was shocked to learn that most of the board’s sibling writers were earning $3,000 a year or less from their books. Consolidation benefits a few stars, and conglomerate shareholders benefit. But it does not help industry workers or writers.

Sarah Baritsky, bestselling author, Hyde Park

CTA needs more diesel buses

Canceling the Chicago Transportation Authority’s plans to invest in more new diesel buses, some suggest, is the worst possible idea. Doing so would assure passengers of less reliable or even less service as the fleet ages. It can also lead to higher prices for passengers as the city strives to keep buses up.

The CTA’s aspirations for an all-electric fleet by 2040 are commendable, but must be tempered by financial and business realities. First and foremost, the mission of public transportation is to provide affordable, accessible and reliable public transportation.

The most appropriate technology to do this today is diesel. Illinois leads the country with a newer diesel-powered transit fleet. According to the latest data, Illinois ranks seventhThe tenthNationwide a number of new advanced technology diesel buses are in service, with more than 57% from 2011 onwards. These buses achieve near zero emissions. They’re also more fuel efficient than older models, saving city money.

For electric buses, the fuel that charges the buses should be considered, and according to the US Energy Information Administration, 30% of Illinois’ electricity comes from burning natural gas and coal, rather than from renewable energy sources.

To intensify the attack on climate change, electricity is not the only solution. The CTA could also expand its use of domestically advanced renewable biodiesel. Last year, 168 million gallons were produced in the state. These reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-80% and reduce particulates, as well as other smog-forming vehicles, across the entire fleet immediately. This is without new buses or refueling infrastructure.

If electric buses are a good fit, they can be adopted based on time and finance, not at the expense of routine fleet turnover. The greatest benefits will be achieved by discontinuing the oldest buses and replacing as many as financially possible with newer diesel buses.

This will not only control operating costs and stabilize service, but will also provide most of the benefits of emissions, transportation equity, and environmental equality for passengers in Chicago and all 35 communities served by the CTA.

Allen Schaeffer, CEO, Diesel Technology Forum

Essential Questions to Ask Candidates

As our election process progresses and eyes focus on 2024, there are three questions I hope every candidate from all parties can answer unequivocally. No talk of committees, focus groups or extenuating circumstances, just an answer from the heart and from one’s personality:

1. Is Joe Biden the duly elected president of the United States?

2. Do you think that every woman should have the right to choose regarding her pregnancy?

3. Will you work to prevent sub-machine guns from getting out of civilian hands?

From the polls I’ve seen, a majority of Americans would answer “yes” to all three. Why don’t our representatives and candidates get it? Questions should be asked directly so that the clarity of our voting options is clear.

James Conroy, Near the East Side