Borders, the book store, had an enormous sale on yesterday. Entering the shop was a bit like stepping onto the film set of Shadow of the Wind: a room full of forgotten books. There were literally thousands of books that you have never heard of, most of which are probably already out of print. It raised some interesting questions for me about publishing.
Someone once told me that there are more people writing books than there are reading them. Looking around Borders yesterday, I can believe it. If you add into these piles (of what can only be described as trash) the downloading of books, we should ask ourselves whether the literary world is slowly and inevitably going to the dogs.
I can think of nothing more abhorrent than becoming famous, albeit briefly, for publishing a trashy book that very quickly goes out of print: a fleeting celebration of mediocrity. With people setting up their own publishing companies to get published, and now the downloading of books, will this mean that even more drivel will find itself onto the literary market? If I worked in publishing, I'd be afraid, very afraid. Nowadays who really needs to go through a publishing company (or agent) at all? It's only a matter of time before you can sell your not-really-very-good novel to Amazon who will publish it only as a download.
It's difficult enough at the moment to find something decent to read, even though when you enter Borders or Magrudys, you are surrounded by an attractive looking plethora of books. If the public are subjected to the download book as well, how will we be able to sift through the rubbish to find the good stuff? How many of these so called authors will be remembered in 10 years time (or by the end of next week?). Is this the end of the era of Literary Greats?
Could this be a good thing, though, in that we will have to return to the distinguished books of the early 20th Century and before to seek out the A level text book? Will it mean that all that trash will remain under the dominion of the downloaded book, and the literary elite will be the only ones published as printed text? I can see, however, that in modern society, where cyberspace dominates, the downloading of books is possibly one of the few ways in which children and teenagers can be attracted to reading. But it nevertheless makes me sad that, what was once the priviledge of the literary adept is fast becoming the domain of the quotidien.