Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post: Michael Lindgren on the Next Decade in Book Culture

By Michael Lindgren

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? This, from New York-based NBCC member Michael Lindgren:

The evolution of book culture—if it can be called that; perhaps “dissolution” would be a better word—is a troubling and unhappy spectacle for a variety of widely documented reasons. Blaming the Internet has become so banal in certain circles that it has been effectively drained of meaning; nonetheless, a couple of observations.

The first is that the race to make “content” increasingly cheap, or better yet free, is in the process of destroying the value of creative activity. With art, as with most things, you get what you pay for, and since the Internet's function is to make everything free, writing will become a field only for the rich or those who are willing to place themselves radically outside of the consumerist mainstream. 

Secondly, I foresee a world where publishing is exclusively electronic, where publishing houses are basically the vanity arms of multimedia reality-show conglomerates, and where the familiar pleasures of printed books and conversations about literature are boutique niche products, available at great price to the elite, and considered by the rest of society to be an outrageously outré, like taking snuff or listening to 45s. The simultaneous acceleration and fragmentation of our culture is taking place with such brutal efficiency that very few people will notice, or care, that literature as a general cultural phenomenon has ceased to exist.