Monday, 18 October 2010

Cuts & slashes

& belt-tightening, for those who haven’t already sold their belts on Ebay and are making do with bits of string. And the novel is dead (Philip Roth: ‘I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people – maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range’). And here are some scary numbers (admittedly US ones, but still): 42% of college graduates never read another book after college; 80% of families did not buy or read a book last year; 70% of adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

Yet in the past few weeks I’ve heard of four new small-scale publishing ventures set to start up in the coming months, and all of them focusing on books rather than ebooks (when is a book not a book?) or online publishing.

Cutbacks as the mothers and fathers of invention? Accident and coincidence? Or are these people simply perverse?

If you think of publishing as first of all a business – which is what the money-men insisted it was, when they moved in a couple of decades ago and demanded profit margins that publishing had never, as a rule, previously delivered, then yes, perverse. If you think of publishing as a vocation (an addictive one), in the way that writing is and maybe reading too, no. Publishers have as much right to starve in a garret as writers. This right is being asserted.


Ros Barber said...

And bless them for asserting that right! Perhaps we can return to the previous chumminess of publishers and writers (from that time before the beancounters moved in). Publishers can adore writers for their skill alone, writers can adore publishers for their perspicacity, and we can all starve together. Or even better, plan the revolution together.

Your figures are scary though. Where did you get them from?

charles said...

Figures from a US writer's blog, giving as source some media company that, when I checked their site, didn't look omniscient. They're just numbers. As for the revolution, no point waiting; surely you just try to live your life as if it's already happened, and maybe others will catch on.