Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)
Much has been said about the fate of books and, as an observer on the outskirts of the phenomena of the written word, I've been stood to one side, pondering.
I think that very few people have really got a handle on things. As I commented here before, when Nick Higham interviewed Mal Peet, Peet seemingly contradicted himself stating that he believed people were reading less but that Amazon were shifting more copies.
However, firm sales figures are difficult to get a grip on, especially as monoliths like Amazon are keeping a tight grip on their precious numbers.
I believe that we will see, with authors, what we have recently seen in the music industry. I'm not only talking of the comparison with Indies repeating in books what the punks did to the monopoly of music in the day; but as the cost of musical instruments came down, electronics brought massive progress and quality production was possible in peoples bedrooms, (without the need for an ol' Joana' in the living room) more artists came to the fore and were able to communicate with more people. We don't really have big names rising these days, like they did of old. More a smattering of groups, bands, DJ's and the like, each of which have their faithful followings.
I sit and wonder whether the same is happening in the literary world; where the next Stephen King is. Surely they should have made an appearance by now? Or perhaps they never will. I don't count the likes of Rowling, who has not made much of a splash beyond the Potter series, and many in the literary world are cringing behind their sofas at what comes next from the pen of E.L.James.
To my mind, society has grown. Changed. In the UK, it is said that, "See you around," is London for goodbye. Entire communities can live together in the same physical space but be completely disconnected from each other. That is the fate of modern life. People can enjoy vastly different musical tastes, surround themselves with incredible vistas of furniture from classical to modern, (thanks to our manufacturing processes) and of course, imbibe in their favourite authors, without ever needing to talk with their neighbour about them ... simply go to a book club full of people that think like them, in order to share convivial opinion without risking too heated a discourse.
This is where I think the bookshops have got it wrong. E-readers wil never kill the physical book format. Our physiology will ensure that people will seek the dead tree version. However, instead of contracting and being picky, they need to change their stance so that they can handle a much larger range, of smaller quantities of books in order to bring a diverse body of people through their doors. They need to have talent spotters out in force to scour the indies instead of trying to jump on to wagons that have already left the station.
The next generation, I believe, will be less likely to pick up the classics, but want to read the fresher, more challenging material. Twain, et al wrote some very clever words, but do they necessarily speak the same language as the next generation? I believe not. We might actually be looking at a future world where every segment and section of society will have their own classics and very little will stand out to be taught in the all encompassing literary classrooms of the future.
It does concern me, however, that the mediums which used to cross the boundaries and bring us together, are no longer doing so; and in that, we appear to be drifting apart...