Let’s be honest: everything’s a bit grim out there. And no, I’m not talking about the weather (although, sheesh! Depressing, or what?) I’m talking about the world of books. Libraries closing, bookshops closing…even publishers closing. Writers struggling to survive – well, that was always the case, because despite the high-profile JK Rowlings of this world, the vast majority of writers make very little money. But things are worse for us now, because publishers are nervous, due to aforementioned closures, the digital revolution, the threat of piracy…the humble BOOK is under threat.
I suppose we could manage without books.
We could read everything on screens.
We could listen to audiobooks. If we go camping, say, or are without an electrical supply for some other reason, we could hire professional storytellers to come along with us.
‘Oh, we’ve got enough books now,’ you could say. ‘We’ve got over five hundred years’ worth, we don’t need any more.’ Or you might say ‘there are too many books being printed! We don’t need so many!’ And an awful lot of books do get published. (A lot of awful books get published, too, ho ho!) The only country in the world that publishes more books per year than Britain is the United States – but not by as much as you’d think, given that they have five times the population. Here, we publish over 200,000 books a year. So hey! What if some writers have to jack it in and get a proper job? It’s natural selection, right? The good ones will survive.
Altogether now: AAAARGH!
The truth is, the best writers usually aren’t the ones who produce the headline-grabbing instant bestsellers.
Anything truly great and original takes time to write, and to make its mark. Years, often. Stop that process and you kill off culture itself. Limit it to bestsellers and you get an impoverished culture. And of course in any case, all stories – including those consumed digitally – still have to be written by somebody, and that somebody deserves to get paid. Websites like Wattpad are great for getting initial exposure, but everyone wants to earn money from their writing eventually.
OK, rant over – and you know all this, of course. You’re a book-lover! Why else would you be here? Well, the survival of good books is in your hands. Demand them, rave about them, share the love! Take a look at this film by my friend Candy Gourlay, full of youngsters talking about the books they love and why. Share your own thoughts here!
The future of books is in YOUR HANDS, girls. Make it happen!