The author of this book came into the store a couple of days ago. Her goal was to persuade us to carry her book. There are some problems with the book (sentences like “How could she find out what they were doing without exposing herself?” and “Feeling empowered, she turned away” do not belong in children’s books, if indeed they belong anywhere). There are also problems with the distribution of the book (Lightning Source, at a 20% discount, which means that for a store like ours, each copy we sold would cost us).

But the thing that was really striking was that the author did not know who distributed her book. At first, she said “Amazon.com”, and then, after thought and further questioning (I changed the question to, “If we want to buy this book, where would we get it?”), was able to agree that the major wholesale book distributer might have it. She had it written down somewhere, she said, and could call me with the information. I assured her that I could check that. She didn’t know the terms, didn’t mention the price, and couldn’t even tell me what age group her book was intended for. When I asked how to get hold of her, she had to search for a scrap of paper to write her number on.

Now, I know nothing else about this woman. She is older than I am, so she must have some way of supporting herself and is presumably competent at many things in her daily life. She seemed nice, too.So this is not really about her being clueless. It is about the technological miracles that allow all of us to be authors.

All of us bloggers, for example, are published right here on the web. And anyone who feels like turning it into paper can do so — at so little effort, it seems, that we don’t even have to know the least little thing about the process.

I’ll tell you frankly that, of the many self-published books that are brought in to me each year, none has yet been a good book. I don’t like all the commercially-published books available, either, of course. Madonna’s children’s books, for example, manage to be both trite and bizarre at the same time. And that’s just one author — but she is also an example of the extension of the idea of authorship. Anyone famous, for anything, can have a children’s book published.

This freedom in the presses ought to increase the number of available books and it ought to increase the number of good ones just as much as bad ones. It should give us all more choices of reading matter. Once we get past the distribution problems.