& 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.