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Nothing but dust ahead for Y2K survival books

Copyright ) 2000 Nando Media
Copyright ) 2000 Associated Press

On the Y2K bookshelf

NEW YORK, January 5, 2000 - Dermot McGuigan, co-author of the survival guide "Y2K & Y-O-U," now worries about the book's own survival.

"It first came out in 1998 and it's going to be republished under its original name, 'Your Resilient Home,'" McGuigan, an energy consultant based in Burlington, Vt., said Tuesday. "All the same information will be there, except the Y2K stuff will be downplayed."

Almost overnight, Y2K disaster books seem as stale as so much leftover party food. With no major computer-related problems reported from the turnover to the year 2000, expect a short shelf life for such titles as "Timebomb 2000!" and "Don't Panic! You Can Prepare for the Y2K Crisis."

"Obviously, we haven't sold as many copies of those kinds of books this week as we did last week," said Debra Williams, director of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble Inc.

Publishing has long operated with different timeframes in mind, issuing everything from "classic" books for the ages to "instant" books for next week.

But Y2K books are an especially tricky category. The typical quickie publication cashes in on a recent news event, like the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. Y2K releases depended on a future event no one could guarantee.

"I liken it to movie tie-in books," said Laurie Brown, vice president of marketing at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. "Most of the sales come before the movie comes out. If the movie doesn't do well, sales fall off dramatically."

If anyone gets stuck with all those unsold copies, it'll probably be the publishers. Superstore chains such as Barnes & Noble rarely purchase books unless they're allowed to return them. Independent stores, meanwhile, tended to order limited numbers of Y2K titles.

Richard Howarth, owner of Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and the president of the American Booksellers Association, said he regarded Y2K publications the same way he does calendars and other materials that date quickly.

"We would order one or two copies at a time, and if a Y2K book sold out by mid-December we didn't bother reordering it," he said.

"And I'm not sure who's going to want them now. If everybody throws them away, they're going to be collectors' items. But since people think they're going to be collectors' items, they're going to keep them and the books will be totally worthless."

The appeal for Y2K titles has shifted from fear to amusement; words once meant to terrify now read like blurbs from old science fiction movies.

The back cover to "The Hippy Survival Guide to Y2K" imagines the very worst: "What if your faucets are dry? What if your phone is dead, trains and planes don't run, banks and stores are closed - and even the government is shut down?"

In Anni McClung's "The Y2K Recipe Collection," cooks are advised that the dishes are "fully compliant" and require "only canned, boxed, and dried items found in your Y2K food storage pantry."

Novels, too, have become instant Y2kitsch.

In "The Millennium Bug," co-written by George E. Grant and Michael S. Hyatt, Fortune 500 executive Bob Priam is fired after failing to convince his boss of the urgency of Y2K preparation. He then sets up his own Y2K consulting firm.

Sure enough, the great disaster arrives. The market crashes, banks fold and panic spreads like an untreatable plague. Priam and his family retreat to a remote farmhouse, where they're still not out of danger.

On Jan. 6, 2000, just before dusk, "The air was pure, sharp, and cold, heavy leaden with drama and disquiet, as befitted Epiphany."


-- John Whitley (, January 05, 2000


Neat. Kind of like old 1950's post-apocolyptic films and books. Perhaps some will become classics like the now-debunked 1984 by George Orwell.

-- Simpleminded (nope@wont.never), January 05, 2000.

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