Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday Words: Writers at Risk

It's been buzzing around for the last few days, at least. Simon & Schuster, one of the "Big Six" in the publishing world, and Barnes & Noble, basically one of the last major bookstore chains left in the United States, are having trouble coming to an agreement in their negotiations about pricing and such. (Read this article about it from The New York Times - it explains the situation much better than I can.)

In this digital age, I can't tell you how many times people at work tell me that pretty soon, will we really need books in the library if everything will be available for tablets and other reading devices? And then there are the aspiring writers like me who wonder if self-publishing online is the right way to go, with bookstores closing their doors left and right. After all, isn't that the way the market is headed? Has Twitter replaced old-fashioned word of mouth? Are browsing other people's Goodreads shelves an adequate replacement for walking around among shelves for an hour or two?

To me, the answer is simple: no. No, it's not the same. Yes technology and e-readers and the nature of libraries and books is advancing. We're people, the world changes, it's basic evolution. However, reading a description of a book online is no where near the same as roaming up and down aisles, seeing what catches your eye, and giving it a perusal. At least not to me. Some of my favorite books are those which I found completely serendipitously.

And I say this as someone who also adores her e-readers almost as much as her shelves of paperbacks.

Really, the people who are at risk in this debate are the writers. Big names like Jodi Picoult have felt the hit of these two huge presences unable to find a compromise. If her numbers have suffered, just think of the smaller writers, the newer writers, the writers whose audience isn't as large and rely on that random person seeing their story on a shelf or in a display and thinking "I'll give this a try." It makes an already incredibly competitive market that much harder for a "smaller" writer to find a measure of success in.

I sincerely hope an agreement can be reached soon, for everyone's sakes. What do you all think of this? Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

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