FORGET BEST-OF LISTS; here's a catalog of a decade's worth of regrets, courtesy of the publishing industry.
The reading public regrets "My Year Of" memoirs, in which the author does ridiculous things for a year (from reading a big set of books to watching Oprah every day) and then gets a book deal for it. This idea is barely worth a blog, let alone a book. Speaking of blogs, it's endlessly regrettable that publishers have decided to treat amusing-but-gimmicky blogs as proving grounds for humorous books (à la Stuff White People Like, Passive Aggressive Notes, and PostSecret.) The obvious flaws of this plan are as follows, in bold for emphasis: The content is available for free on the internet.
JT Leroy regrets not existing.
I regret reading Sarah Palin's hateful memoir, and I especially regret that nightmare I had while reading the memoir that combined Trig's birth with the horrific vampire birth scene from the last book in the Twilight series.
Librarians everywhere regret hearing a sentence that begins with the phrase "I'm not the kind of person who believes in censoring books but—"
The book-buying public regrets Anne Rice's conversion to Catholicism. The books she has written since finding Jesus are awful enough to make anyone slaughter a goat in the name of Baphomet.
The publishing industry is just starting to get over its regret of ebooks. I regret that ebooks have clearly been on the way for at least 10 years and only now is the publishing industry trying to react to them. Ebooks should not have surprised anyone in publishing, and yet somehow here they are, shocked and befuddled by this supposedly unforeseen turn of events.
The music industry regrets that they did not have the opportunity to watch another major entertainment industry take an enormous hit from the internet, the way that books (and the film industry, for that matter) now have the opportunity to learn from the music industry. Everyone else regrets that the publishing industry doesn't seem to have learned a goddamned thing from the music industry.
Everyone who reads book blogs regrets YouTube book trailers, a moronic, unappealing way to promote books that seem to exist solely for book bloggers looking to fill up space.
I attended several American Booksellers Association (ABA) meetings in the early 2000s when facilitators would try to discuss some sort of plan for independent booksellers to get in early on the ebook market. I deeply regret that every single one of those meetings came to an early conclusion when a bookseller would stand up and tearfully exclaim some variation of the following: "People will always read books! They love the feeling and the smell of books! People will never want to read books on some awful screen!" Those smug, self-righteous, shortsighted dolts are a major reason why Amazon.com, and not the ABA, is at the forefront of the ebook market.
While regretting the closures of bookstores is a good and important thing to do, booksellers who are lucky enough to remain in business should regret that they haven't looked at their business from an impartial perspective at least once a week and wondered how they could better serve their customers. They should then vow to begin that practice in 2010.
I regret that the future of books hasn't gotten here faster. Once we get used to ebooks and online-only literary magazines and whatever comes after that, there is going to be some serious literary brilliance flying around that the world has literally never seen before. We're going to have an amazing next 10 years.