The Printed Word Lives!

 

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Can printed books survive this century?

Richard Godwin writes for the ‘London Evening Standard’ newspaper. On Wednesday 9 July 2014, he wrote a stunning piece on the printed word titled, ‘Don’t be so fast to write off the printed word.’  We simply love it and thought it wise to post it here. Godwin writes simply but the tone of the post was solemn, sad even. It’s not a secret that the digital age has its pros and cons and writers are struggling to live on writing alone; nonetheless, we believe the printed word is here to stay! 

  ”The novel, people keep tweeting, is dying. According to e-book data, just 28.3 per cent of readers complete all 143 pages of The Great Gatsby — and the fact that only 25.9 per cent manage Fifty Shades of Grey is hardly cause for cheer. Our attention spans are so shot we can barely complete a sentence without OMG have you seen this elephant he’s CRYING. Thanks, internet!

It’s partly thanks to the internet too that reports of the death of the novel now seem to be more widely read than novels themselves. Will Self recently wrote a despairing essay in The Guardian about how “the hallmark of our contemporary culture is an active resistance to difficulty”. (I gave up on Angry Birds Star Wars for similar reasons.) At The New York Review of Books, Tim Parks laments the “state of constant distraction” that is the enemy of complexity.

Simply put, the average reader spends less time on novels than they used to. Less money too, for the decline in cultural value is mirrored by a decline in financial value. British authors’ earnings are down 29 per cent to £11,000 since 2005. As with the wider world, the literary economy is dominated by a small elite (your E L  Jameses and Dan Browns) who earn ever larger portions of the wealth, while the rest (including your Will Selfs and Tim Parkses) make do with less. Only 11 per cent of writers live by literary labour alone.

So who’s to blame? There are many potential culprits: Amazon.com, videogames, Twitter, capital in the 21st century… But the truth is that no form, not sonnet nor silent film, lasts for ever. All are subject to economic and technological shifts. Even if it is hard to write a worthwhile novel, novelists have no more “right” to a salary than do acrobats or stonemasons. Or print journalists, for that matter.

It’s tempting to get tearful about that, but I keep coming back to this question: will we ever cease to demand complex stories to help us understand the world? I just can’t see that happening. Look at the rise of “novelistic” TV series such as Breaking Bad. Ah, but will we cease to demand the printed word? Again, I can’t see it. If anything, digital technology means we read and write more than ever. (I’m more worried about talking.)

What it does mean is that writers will create new forms. Perhaps shorter. Perhaps not. The book causing most excitement in the literary world is My Struggle, a 3,600-page, six-part memoir by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård. It’s novel in that it’s new, relevant, rewarding and as such, quite easy to read.

Most encouragingly, it has sold by the container-load.”

Posted by Admin.

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