THE WORD ‘GLUT’ IS NOW BEING USED ABOUT THE BOOK BUSINESS—TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE NOW SELF PUBLISHING?
ARE WE WRITERS NOW DOOMED (MORE THAN USUAL?)
“GLUT IS GOOD,” SAYS HUGH HOWIE
(“Hugh Howie is good,” says Victor)
Howie is a Best Selling Author and an absolute champion of the indie publisher. Marvelous man. check him out at www.hughhowie.com He wrote the following (I wish I had). The guy has a zest for life that is infectious.
If you followed the logic of the most paranoid and hysterical among the Glut-Chanters, you’d have to reach this conclusion. Bookselling is dead. There are enough fantastic and free books to last us all for the rest of our lives. And yet, book-buying continues to be a $30 billion dollar industry. What gives?
How can people spend $30 billion dollars on books when there are libraries full of books that just sit there, un-checked-out and without waiting lists? How can people spend $30 billion dollars a year on books when I’ve seen piles of free physical books on the streets of New York, abandoned and left for passersby after someone moved out of their apartment? Why are people spending this much money when library overstock sales get rid of hardbacks for a buck and paperbacks cost 50 cents? Literature is being devalued everywhere, and yet it still brings in $30 billion a year? What gives?
What gives is that books aren’t perfectly interchangeable. Or another way to say this is that all books don’t appeal equally to all people. The industry could release ten trillion free ebooks tomorrow, all told from the perspective of ninja zombie llamas, and those ten trillion extra free ebooks would impact book shopping not a whit. Zilch. Nada.
Okay, you’d probably lose two or three sales. But that’s it. Those ebooks would disappear into the ether just like billions of un-surfed websites do. Do all those websites clog up the internet? Make it impossible to browse around and find what you’re looking for? No — they make it more likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. Because there’s a greater chance that someone has self-published onto the World Wide Web just the information you’re seeking.
Forget the number of books being published every year. Raw numbers of books are meaningless, as are the price of those books. What matters is whether each individual reader can find enough quality reads to make him or her happy at prices they are willing to pay. Which is why Project Gutenberg hasn’t destroyed the publishing industry. There are enough people who want physical books, enough who want new books, enough who want non-fiction, and enough who don’t care about the classics, to keep this $30 billion industry humming right along.
So why all the consternation? Well, seeing things in the most negative light imaginable is just how a lot of humans are wired. But I suspect it’s deeper than that. We are also biologically geared to worry over scarce resources and to use up any commons that we fear others might use before we get a chance. This puling over the glut of books is ape-brain-shit gone wild.
You mostly hear about this glut nonsense from book producers, and they aren’t worried about an infinite number of books, they are worried about the finite number of wallets. They see every one of those ten trillion llama books as taking money out of their pockets, because they think every reader would enjoy their work if there was nothing else to read. They think if they could just limit the number of books, they’d sell more. They’d be richer. So is there any way to shut down the spigot? Any way of shaming people who write too fast, price too cheap, give ebooks away, serialize, participate in subscription services, etc? That’s the goal. To have more wallets spread among fewer people.
The tools you see employed to reach that goal are shame and fear-mongering. Ignore it. It’s all insane. These people miss the point, which is that the glut is good. The glut is golden. There’s never been a better time in history for literature.
VOR words c.60