By Nick Hornby
How are writers going to make a living in 10, 20, 50 years' time? If you're a writer (or a publisher, oran agent, or a critic, or maybe even a reader), then this question may have occurred to you. Conversations I've been having with people recently, people whose job it is to try and make sense of what's happening out there, are alarming: bookstores are closing all over the place, and even the big chains are unlikely to survive in their current form for much longer; publishers are slashing advances; books by firsttime authors that don't sell in hardback are being offered an extended life in e-book rather than in paperback. Nobody knows how long our current publishing culture will last, but some very clever observers foresee profound change over the next five years, leaving us with very little that any of us, however old we are, will be able to recognize.
Yes, digitization has brought us convenience and portability and access, and saved us billions, because music and TV and films and, one day soon, books, are all free. But even so, I wish we'd at least talked about arresting the people who invented it, and maybe pulling out their tongues and cutting off their hands. I mean, I would have been against it, on balance. But I'd have listened carefully to the arguments from the other side.
When I try to talk about any of this stuff with those who love books, however, the dialogue becomes very frustrating very quickly.
ME: It's pretty worrying, all this iPad and Kindle stuff. …