Every so often we link to Bryan A. Garner's daily tips. We also rely on Modern American Usage and recommend it to other writers. We just received this rather disheartening e-mail from Bryan:
I have a favor to ask of you as a loyal reader: In the next few hours or days, would you please go to http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.bn.com/ and buy one or more copies of the new third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage as holiday presents? In fact, keep this gift possibility in mind through the end of the year, won't you?
I need your help in sending a message to the major bookstore chains: they’re not stocking the book because they’ve told Oxford University Press that they consider usage guides a “defunct category.” It’s maddeningly unbelievable. Please help me show them that they’re stupendously wrong.
Meanwhile, in the coming months you might ask about the book when you’re in a bookstore: ask the managers why they don’t stock copies, and encourage them to do so.
If you’re curious to see what effect you’re having, watch the rankings on Amazon.com or Bn.com in coming days and weeks. We’ll be alerting the major chains to those numbers, and we want to get as close to the top 50 as we can. If you're trying to order and see that the book is labeled "out of stock," order anyway: the effort is also to ensure that the online booksellers keep adequate stocks.
In return for this favor – it’s a grassroots effort – I’ll be happy to inscribe copies that you send to LawProse for that purpose, if you (1) include a filled-out FedEx airbill for returning them to you, and (2) suggest an appropriate inscription.
Thank you for whatever help you can provide in this endeavor to show booksellers that the concern for good English is alive and well.
Please consider doing this.
Another plea: Consider requesting copies of your favorite books and authors when you go to bookstores. Stores won't carry smaller books if people don't ask for them, particularly back-listed titles. Unless you want to live in a world where only "big" books--Dan Brown and the like--have a chance, it's incredibly important to support writers you like.
Brown can be one of those writers, of course. But there are great, great books that never get noticed on a tremendous scale, and when the big stores--Barnes and Noble, Costco and the like--refuse to carry them, we run the risk of a literary world determined by the mass appetites. It's not that these books are bad (though some of them aren't, shall we say, good). It's just that they crowd out the stuff that's idiosyncratic or meant for people who aren't typical. It's sort of like reducing everything to hot dogs. These are fine at times. But sometimes, you want a finer cut.
So if you think of yourself as anything different from average and if you have tastes that go beyond hot dogs, please express this about yourself by reading widely and courageously, and by supporting authors. Thank you!