Will people still read in 2060? As with Social Security, there are variables one just doesn't know how to project forward: fewer people read books but more want to write them, and more and more books are published.
A real debate could be had about all these things. Instead we get the "reading crisis." Under conditions of the reading crisis, everything a writer does, no matter how self-serving and reprehensible, becomes a blow in the service of literature. An arbiter of a "revolution" in reading features games, accordionists, and contests at his public events...
It is true that the economics of publishing depends now on a quest for mega-hits: but this is corporatization, not Oprah, and in either case it has nothing to do with writing...
The final, insidious manifestation of the reading crisis is the way it gives cover to the hostility to criticism. One's critics "piss in the fragile ecosystem that is the literary world" (Eggers); or they are merely "resentniks" (Foer). The real trouble of course is that if "books" are "good," as the mantra goes, you don't have to face how good or bad your book actually is. The criterion is only to "make readers." I make readers, the writer deludes himself, waving his sales report–surely these millions came into existence only for him? It no longer matters what he wrote.
And the iTunes gives out free J.K.Rowling samples, like heroin.
Excerpts don't really do this essay justice. Get yours.
The certain hostility toward non-book technologies running through this issue, part sophisticated and part intuitive. Unconfortable fence? There's no doubt armchairs can be worse, particularly when the resident has a laptop with wireless. But what was that about a "real debate"...ok, so let's have one! Inevitable proclamations to the contrary, it hasn't happened yet. Bookslut?