Cover image for So many books : reading and publishing in an age of abundance
So many books : reading and publishing in an age of abundance
Zaid, Gabriel.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Demasiados libros. English
First Paul Dry Books edition, 2003.
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Paul Dry Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
144 pages ; 18 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z1003 .Z35 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"Gabriel Zaid's defense of books is genuinely exhilarating. It is not pious, it is wise; and its wisdom is delivered with extraordinary lucidity and charm. This is how Montaigne would have written about the dizzy and increasingly dolorous age of the Internet. May So Many Books fall into so many hands."--Leon Wieseltier

"Reading liberates the reader and transports him from his book to a reading of himself and all of life. It leads him to participate in conversations, and in some cases to arrange them...It could even be said that to publish a book is to insert it into the middle of a conversation."--from So Many Books

Join the conversation! In So Many Books , Gabriel Zaid offers his observations on the literary condition: a highly original analysis of the predicament that readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and teachers find themselves in today--when there are simply more books than any of us can contemplate.

"With cascades of books pouring down on him from every direction, how can the twenty-first-century reader keep his head above water? Gabriel Zaid answers that question in a variety of surprising ways, many of them witty, all of them provocative."--Anne Fadiman, Author of Ex-Libris

"A truly original book about books. Destined to be a classic!"--Enrique Krauze, Author of Mexico: Biography of Power , Editor of Letras Libres

"Gabriel Zaid's small gem of a book manages to be both delectable and useful, like chocolate fortified with vitamins. His rare blend of wisdom and savvy practical sense should make essential and heartening reading for anyone who cares about the future of books and the life of the mind."--Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Author of Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books

"Gabriel Zaid is a marvelously elegant and playful writer--a cosmopolitan critic with sound judgment and a light touch. He is a jewel of Latin American letters, which is no small thing to be. Read him--you'll see."--Paul Berman

"'So many books,' a phrase usually muttered with despair, is transformed into an expression of awe and joy by Gabriel Zaid. Arguing that books are the essential part of the great conversation we call culture and civilization, So Many Books reminds us that reading (and, by extension, writing and publishing) is a business, a vanity, a vocation, an avocation, a moral and political act, a hedonistic pursuit, all of the aforementioned, none of the aforementioned, and is often a miracle."--DougDutton

"Zaid traces the preoccupation with reading back through Dr. Johnson, Seneca, and even the Bible ('Of making many books there is no end'). He emerges as a playful celebrant of literary proliferation, noting that there is a new book published every thirty seconds, and optimistically points out that publishers who moan about low sales 'see as a failure what is actually a blessing: The book business, unlike newspapers, films, or television, is viable on a small scale.' Zaid, who claims to own more than ten thousand books, says he has sometimes thought that 'a chastity glove for authors who can't contain themselves' would be a good idea. Nonetheless, he cheerfully opines that 'the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.'"-- New Yorker

Gabriel Zaid 's poetry, essays, social and cultural criticism, and business writings have been widely published throughout the Spanish-speaking world. He lives in Mexico City with the artist Basia Batorska, her paintings, three cats, and ten thousand books.

Natasha Wimmer is an editor and a translator in New York City. Her recent translations include The Savage Detectives and 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Author Notes

Gabriel Zaid is a poet and essayist, and the founder and manager of a consulting firm in Mexico City. His literary work, social and cultural criticism, and business writings have been widely published throughout the Spanish-speaking world. He is a member of El Colegio Nacional and the Mexican Academy of Spanish Language.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The human race publishes a book every thirty seconds, observes Mexico City-based poet and essayist Zaid, and therefore how is a single book among the millions to find its readers? This is the conundrum upon which Zaid builds his incisive, wry, ultimately celebratory meditation on the chaotic and wasteful, yet exciting and felicitous world of books. Believing that culture is a conversation conducted on many levels around various foci, of which books constitute a vital and crucial number, Zaid reminds readers that books don't have to reach a huge audience to have impact but, rather, must be read by the right readers. Zaid also considers our ambivalence regarding books: we want them to be readily available--that is, produced and sold as commodities--but we also hold them sacred. He then parses the absurdities inherent in the economics of publishing, notes with stinging wit the frustrating fact that more people want to write than to read, and delights in the fecundity and diversity of book ecology. Lively, cosmopolitan, and piquant, Zaid's treatise will engage every serious reader. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The human race publishes a book every thirty seconds," writes Mexican author and consultant Zaid. How can the average reader keep up with even a fraction of the latest new releases, let alone the multitude of classics stretching all the way back to Homer and Plato? The prospect is daunting to even the greatest bibliophile; furthermore, Zaid argues, people seem more interested in writing books than reading them (a recent survey shows 81% of Americans feel they should write a book). Though frustrated by this state of affairs, Zaid takes a philosophical perspective on the state of book publishing today, claiming that the industry doesn't always recognize one of its greatest strengths: its overwhelming diversity. In the publishing industry, a book that appeals to just a few thousand readers stands a good chance of getting published, whereas the commercial film industry and other mass media must function almost exclusively on a mega-budget scale. He celebrates the small printings that appeal to segmented clienteles, specialized niches, and members of different clubs of enthusiasts because "just a few thousand copies, read by the right people, are enough to change the course of conversation, the boundaries of literature, and our intellectual life." Not a groundbreaking book, but an appealing, meditative collection of thoughts and observations on the book industry and the state of literature in the early 21st century. (Sept.) Forecast: Book lovers of all stripes will enjoy this light piece of cultural criticism. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

To the Unrepentant Readerp. 9
An Embarrassment of Booksp. 12
Complaining About Babelp. 25
Books and Conversationp. 34
Culture and Commercep. 50
Some Questions About the Circulation of Booksp. 57
The End of the Bookp. 75
The Cost of Readingp. 85
The Supply and Demand of Poetryp. 90
A Hair Shirt for Masochistic Authorsp. 95
Constellations of Booksp. 98
In Search of the Readerp. 111
Diversity and Concentrationp. 134