Wednesday, September 28, 2011
WHITHER THE BOOK WORLD? From Marta Perry
Listen in on any writers' loop these days, and you'll sense an atmosphere of apprehension, fear, and sometimes downright panic! Where are the bookstores going? Is the midlist really dead? Will mass market books go the way of the dodo bird? Are e-book contracts fair to the author? Is self-publishing the answer? What about e-book book clubs? Are e-readers here to stay, or is there yet another new technology waiting in the wings to destroy the world as we know it?
Let me confess--I'm one of those people who loudly proclaimed that I didn't want to read books on an electronic device. That I love the feel of a real book in my hands. That I would never desert my local bookstore.
Then our kids gave us a Kindle. Long story short, I love it. I enjoy being able to enlarge the print when my eyes get tired; I love being able to carry an unlimited number of books along on a trip; I appreciate being able to order the next in a series instantaneously when I finish a book at ten o'clock at night. I especially enjoy the fact that my husband doesn't eye the bookstore bag or the box on the front porch from Amazon and comment that we already have too many books in our house!
But by whatever means my books are being delivered, what I really love is the content, and as my agent is fond of reminding me, we writers deal in content. No matter what technological advances come along to change the way people read, they will still love and need fiction. Yes, need. There's a deep human longing for story, whether it's told around a campfire thousands of years in the past or read on some yet-to-be-imagined device on a distant planet sometime in the future.
I'm not saying we shouldn't, as writers, be aware and on guard when it comes to publishing contracts which may not be in our best interest. We owe that to ourselves and our readers, just as readers owe it to writers not to download pirated versions of our work, thus cheating us of the income that allows us to keep writing.
But I am suggesting that we take a deep breath and remember that the sky is not falling. (Unless, of course, you happen to be in the path of a crashing satellite.) As writers, the more we know and understand, the more we are able to chart our own path to the future. The book world is changing, but it's not going away any time soon.
Happy Reading and Writing,