My best friend’s mom, who was much more into cooking than either of my parents, had books on Chinese cooking and Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. She also subscribed to Gourmet magazine. I spent hours reading lists of ingredients, thinking of meals I would make and ogling the few color photographs.
I even created my own recipe book.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Or, perhaps, risen.
Now I have a Pinterest account. When I want inspiration, I look at my Recipes board. I can ogle endless, gorgeous, glistening photographs—food porn, anyone? I can instantly print any recipe I want. Or I can go on a treasure hunt, letting Pinterest lead me to other boards that share my Pins and to other recipe sites until I’m in danger of disappearing down a cooking rabbit hole.
Books vs. ?
The cookbook-vs.-Pinterest state of affairs strikes me as an apt parallel to what is happening in the world of fiction. When we say traditional book publishing is in trouble, the fiction writers among us fear the demise of the novel. But other segments of the book publishing world fear the same slow slide into oblivion. I looked for some expert opinion. It was as mixed as a chopped salad. Here are two:
- The future of cookbooks—they’ll go extinct, and that’s okay (Slate)
- The State of U.S. Illustrated Book Publishing – Part I (Publishing Perspectives)
Many of the pro-physical book arguments are strikingly similar, whether you’re talking about fiction or cookbooks.
Here’s my (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) take on the pros and cons of the physical book.
- Physical books are beautiful objects that make memorable gifts.
- Because of the resources required to produce them (especially illustrated cookbooks), the quality tends to be higher than online or electronic versions—better editing in the case of fiction, vetted and tested recipes in the case of cookbooks.
- They’re nostalgia items for the aging among us.
- Anybody under 25 doesn’t really care about the physical beauty of the object. They want the information, straight up.
- Editing, vetting, and curating is overrated. Who cares if the recipes misspell ingredients or aren’t very clear on baking times? It’s fun to follow Bettie’s Baker’s Gluten-Free Baking Blog and participate vicariously in her baking experiences.
- You’re killing trees, man!
It makes sense that the coverage of the cookbook market, like that of the fiction market, is mixed. I find my emotions mixed as well. There are pros and cons to both physical and e-books, to traditional publishing and self-publishing. Maybe we can celebrate the advantages of each and stop worrying so much about whether and when one will destroy the other.
BONUS TRACK: STEW 850
For those of you who remember vinyl record albums (which I believe have made something of a comeback in recent years), I offer a bonus track for reading to the end of this post: a recipe. I created this in early 1974 when the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) was around 850. My dad was a stock market investor, among other things, and the state of the was always big dinner conversation. Hence, the name: “Stew 850, for when the market is at that level.” Enjoy.