Sometimes I think this is nonsense. Sometimes I think there’s something in it.
In 2010, Garrison Keillor wrote a comical op/ed piece for the New York Times speculating on the end of book-publishing. He believes that his own child, with her skimming, surfing, and writing on little screens, is hastening the death of publishing.
And that is the future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.
First, let me say I am a friend of the book. A very good friend of the book. I have spent my life reading books. I also enjoy reading book reviews, book news, and book blogs.
But I recently took a week off from reading blogs, and was disconcerted when I returned to them. I was dismayed by the poor quality of the writing at most. And I wondered if our bloggers’ mutual admiration society is a shadow world of the book review publishing world (almost certainly), or if it is a populist short cut to coaxing us to accept the second best (possibly).
Bring down the level of education (get people into business, not liberal arts), close down the publishers and newspapers, get everybody hooked on the internet (the giant conspiracy to interrupt our attention span by click-click-click), and people will stay inside and not interfere with the government clap-down on privacy. There are no doubt grim days indoors ahead with the advent of climate change.
I am not completely sure that isn’t the plot. Heavens, I read a lot of science fiction. I read John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar only last year.
Naturally, I have to stand with the bloggers here, not with the traditional writers. The newspapers are shutting down. Some book review publications and many book bloggers are, more or less, holding the line. Many know the difference between good and bad books. Joan Chase’s During the Reign of the Queen of Persia? A classic. TaraShea Nesbit’s The Wives of Los Alamos? Mediocre. Now don’t get me wrong. I write informally about books here. I am not reviewing books. But book reviews, even in book review publications, can be scatty. I’ve decided to read award-winning books and finalists again, because the judges are at least recommending books above a certain line (at least usually).
But shouldn’t I revamp my blog and write more about books? No. It is a small one-person operation.The book pieces I write here, even though they’re informal, take time.
But it’s wearisome predicting the future of books, isn’t it? I wonder if Garrison Keillor is as exhausted by it as I am.