If you are a reader, but especially if you are a writer (or musician), you ought to read this. It is unequivocally true.
This article begins thus: “Will books, as we know them, come to an end? Yes, absolutely, within 25 years the digital revolution will bring about the end of paper books. But more importantly, ebooks and e-publishing will mean the end of “the writer” as a profession.”
A quick summary of his main points:
- the end of books is a technical point, they will be reinvented
- the more fundamental question is not what happens to books, but what happens to writers, will writing exist as a profession?
- historically, authors, like other artists, have been supported, subsidized; what will happen to authors when the subsidy process of advances ends?
- the “R&D department” for publishers is not the best seller list or the beginner, it is the midlist. The midlist writer has essentially disappeared (publishing suicide).
- as the “long tail” gets longer, author incomes shrink to negligible.
- few writers and publishers will survive the “long tail.”
- books will be written in sweatshops.
- the end of the book as written by professional writers is imminent.
This topic has appeared on these “pages” a few times over the past year or two. Some of our discussions were lively. This article is one of the more blunt on the subject.
I can say without doubt that everything in this article is an accurate accounting of the literary world as I see if from the perspective of a professional writer of more than three decades.
Except emotionally, this is irrelevant to me. I had my day. I come from the last generation of true readers and writers. I am unlikely to see the full effect of what this article forecasts. It will most difficult for the transitional generation, the one that falls between the last of the book and the full force of the digital world. They are the writers who will be forced to dodge the roof when it falls in, they will be the ones sitting on the curb in the rain, the rain falling on the last books left in the trash, the rain falling on my ashes.