overcast, windy, light snow temps minus 10
One of the largest publishing companies in Canada - HB Fenn - declared bankruptcy yesterday. It wasn't a massive publisher, though it did do some fine original publishing - but it was a massive distributor of books for American and British publishers. Including my next three. I only mention my connection because it meant I'd gotten to know some of the Fenn people recently. Faun - their rep who lives in Ottawa. Rob Howard - their VP. He came to Montreal a couple of weeks ago today to meet and discuss strategy for A Trick of the Light.
I feel terrible for the 125 employees...and, of course, the few I actually knew. Spoke to Rob this morning to see how he was doing. It was a shock to everyone - except probably the president. That's what makes this all the more tragic in Canadian publishing circles. Fenn was started by Harold Fenn. And is still owned and run by him. A gracious man now in his 70's - he knew all the employees and cared for them all. And, I suspect, kept Fenn afloat longer than others might, for them.
There aren't very many family, privately owned 'old world' publishing houses left. By old world I don't mean old fashioned. Fenn hired young and dynamic people. but I mean that sort of personal touch and relationship that matter to Mr. Fenn. This is a terrible time for him.
But I suspect, not to be a doom-sayer, that this presages fundamental changes and re-structuring in publishing.
Mr. Fenn said it was many things, but one specific he mentioned in a statement was the increased popularity of e-books. I know they're very popular - obviously. You'd have to be a fool not to realize that. But I'd held a hope that a balance might be found, to make room for e-books, but not to sacrifice 'book' books, and the people who publish them. And the stores that sell them.
Who knows what this year will bring. It's clearly crucial to embrace change and not try to sabotage it. Not be someone who laments the passing of the 'past'. And yet...I can't help but wonder if the brave new world is a better one. I feel a bit like the owner of a horse and buggy, looking at the horseless carriage. And feeling dread. And sadness.
I have no desire to stop progress - but I sometime wonder if we really know what we've created.