6,500 paper choices.

That unstoppable workhorse (“cockroach”) of the publishing industry, the calendar:

According to Publishers Weekly, there were fewer than 200 calendars for sale in 1976. Today, there are more than 6,500 from which to choose. Part of this proliferation is due to the fact that we once got the bulk of our calendars for free, from banks, insurance companies, and other businesses eager to keep their phone numbers in front of their customers’ eyes throughout the year. But it’s not as if those businesses were giving away more than one copy to each customer, or offering them in multiple formats. And yet, as we shift gears from 2008 to 2009, how many among us are not tacking up a Sarah Palin 2009 calendar in our kitchen, and clearing off a space on our desk at work for the Insult-a-Day 2009 calendar, and jotting down the year’s first doctor appointment in our New Yorker Cat Cartoons weekly engagement calendar? Clearly, we are far more concerned about the passing of each day, each week, each month, than our carefree, calendar-lite counterparts in the 1970s.

Wristwatch sales have plummeted this decade because more and more people turn to their cellphones, PDAs, and computers to tell time. Those devices are equipped with calendars too, and yet our allegiance to the old-fashioned paper version is only deepening. Why? They don’t offer much space for adding notes, so you end up buying more than one. They’re not very portable, so you end up buying more than two. They’re guaranteed to break after a year, no matter how infrequently you use them. So you buy them again and again and again. Their poor performance is the key to their great success.

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