HMV, the chain music store, has gone into administration. Many commentators have pointed to changing technology as a primary cause of the store’s demise. Few people buy music in the High Street these days. Some download from sites such as iTunes, and many young people, traditionally the market for popular music, do not even buy downloads, but watch their preferred tracks free on YouTube.
The book industry is following a similar path. Many people prefer to read digitized versions on their Kindles or iPads, and the market is very difficult for new authors to break into. As a writer myself I see some of the trade close up, and it does not look promising. One of my literary friends, quite a celebrated author, tells me:
“There’s no money in books. My sales are so few, I know my readers by name. If you look at the bestseller lists, the only books that sell are the ghosted memoir rubbish by TV celebrities.”
To that I would add books ghost-written for sports stars, plus books by already well-established best-selling authors. Since J K Rowling and Harry Potter publishers are really looking only for blockbusters. Where they might once have encouraged and developed new authors and built up a readership over time, now they look only for instant success. In practice this means that the only authors who make money are ones who the publishers back with a big promotional budget. The book review pages of newspapers and magazines are largely reserved for books from publishers who take paid advertisements in those publications. The books piled upon tables at the front of the bookshop are there because the publishers have paid the bookshops for the privilege. If there is no money in books, the curtain may be coming down on the professional writer. The book trade as we have known it is withering before our eyes, with no clear sign of how it might be revived, or of what might replace it when it has gone.
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