As we ponder the future of the book and what it means to publish in these changing times, there are all sorts of theories. The most interesting one I’ve read, recently, is Anakana Schofield’s piece in The Guardian. She notes from her publicity work around her novel that she thinks we’ve shifted from a culture of reading to a culture of writing. She laments the loss of the cultured reader.
There’s certainly a case to be made that this shift is happening and it’s worth pondering. Twitter seems like a case in point. It’s like machine gun fire sometimes, those 140 character bursts, from all quarters. In Twitter, it’s plain to see a lot of people have something to say. It’s not very evident whether anyone’s listening or not (The only one who may be listening is the American Government, says Edward Snowden). Twitter is a perfect example of a writing culture.
One of the reasons we were a book culture has to do with the technology of the press, and the difficulty of making a book. In the beginning (what an auspicious way to begin a sentence) paper and ink was a challenge, as was the making of a book. Given the limited supply of these things, it would make sense that a reading culture developed. But now, technology has made it so anyone can create a book. Fixing words to paper and throwing them around the world is now easy. The harder thing to do is read them, right?
There’s also a crisis in the world of the book review. They’re getting very difficult to believe. It seems like every e-book in the world has a host of 5 star reviews that almost always include the words “this was the best book I’ve ever read.” It seems apparent from the book review crisis that no one is reading, or very few read carefully any more. And it’s difficult to tell careful readers from those who blanket the internet with 5-star, two-thumbs up reviews.
It sure seems like we may be in the middle of a shift. It’s difficult to say, too, whether this is a temporary condition, or the new world order. Regardless, it certainly is an interesting topic for our consideration.
I’d love to hear what you think, which is to say I’ll read your comments.