As we wind down the “aughts” decade, the NBCC seeks the best guest posts about the future of book culture, including essays,interviews and free-range opining. The topic: How do you see book culture evolving over the next decade? Here's a take from Bruce Allen of Kittery, Maine, an NBCC member since 1975.
As a reader and reviewer who has kept up with forty-plus years' worth of literary fiction and nonfiction, I'm always cautiously hopeful, no matter what the evidence of our senses, and our bookshelves, suggests.
I do believe that inescapable belt-tightening will have the inevitable dual result. Large publishers affiliated with corporations not specifically invested in making good and challenging books available will lean ever further toward tell-all biographies and memoirs, exposés of celebrity misbehavior, and crackpot economic, social, and pseudo-religious theorizing. The more intrepid of the smaller publishers will find ways to survive, though far too many of our best will of necessity fall by the wayside. The biggest and best-funded publishers may to some extent (perhaps to a great extent) lack conviction, but there'll be more than enough of it among the brave souls who'd rather publish Herta Müller than the women who claim to be Tiger Woods's mistresses.
I think the visibility of President Obama and the general respect rightfully accorded his global outlook may inspire more and better translations of foreign language books. Whether we wish to or not, we're going to have to become more aware of other cultures, their exigent circumstances, and their strategies for survival. This emphasis can, and I have a hunch it very well may, mean good things for those who want book culture to survive.
Finally, I very much doubt that the online readig experiece will render the actual physical book extinct. There are still too many dinosaurs like yours truly aroud, and we'll kick up enough dust to keep the argument going.