Garrison Keillor. Man, I love him and his rich voice booming Good Thoughts to writers every morning on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac.
Garrison Keillor thinks publishing as we know it is over.
Call me a pessimist, call me Ishmael, but I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.
We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (U R 2 1derful), blogging like crazy, reading for hours off their little screens, surfing around from Henry James to Jesse James to the epistle of James to pajamas to Obama to Alabama to Alanon to non-sequiturs, sequins, penguins, penal institutions, and it’s all free, and you read freely, you’re not committed to anything the way you are when you shell out $30 for a book. You’re like a hummingbird in an endless meadow of flowers.
And if you want to write, you just write and publish yourself. No need to ask permission, just open a website. And if you want to write a book, you just write it, send it to Lulu.com or BookSurge at Amazon or PubIt or ExLibris and you’ve got yourself an e-book. No problem. 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.
We all know the publishing industry is undergoing a sea change. While I don’t think books or storytelling will ever go away, it could be that the amount of people able to make a living solely at writing novels will decline. Keillor certainly thinks so.
Or does the prevalence of PODs and electronic books available only through booksellers like Amazon mean that the consumer, desperate to have someone filter the millions of choices that keep mushrooming, will be even more apt to purchase a book through the traditional means?
As writers, we all wish we had a crystal ball to let us know which way the wind is going to blow in an industry where turmoil seems to be the norm. All we can do is keep on keeping on. But the pace of change is so rapid, that even a year from now we could be looking at a whole different scenario.
On an unrelated note, Happy Memorial Day to all who have served and sacrificed.