Sometimes modern society leaves me ashamed to be part of it. Ashamed and disappointed and really, really annoyed. Really annoyed because, like many people, it has sucked me in to its world of consumerism and mass-marketing. I’m talking about books – and if you want to see the article that sparked my fury click here. It is an article from the Book Blog of The Guardian which discusses the increasing pressure on publishing houses to settle for supermarket deals on formulaic books instead of seeking out and nurturing promising talent from undiscovered, unique writers who are telling a different story than everyone else.
It’s the same for independent book sellers – what with supermarkets now doing “two for £5” deals on books and Amazon consistently selling everything, particularly books, at the lowest possible prices it is impossible for anyone even attempting to sell books at their “recommended retail price” to find enough customers to keep them afloat. It’s a shame, because as a society we are disconnecting ourselves from the arts. I don’t mean that no one’s reading or listening to music any more – far from it – it is the way in which we are doing it….
We’re not going browsing in bookshops any more – savouring the distinctive smell only books can have or marvelling over the sheer number of books it stocks instead we’re wandering round Sainsbury’s or wherever and chucking “the latest bestseller” on top of our weekly shop or possibly worse, sitting at home and ordering books to be delivered to our front doors at the click of a mouse. I’m guilty of it, you’re probably guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it! Because it’s easy and lazy and doesn’t require the effort of leaving the house to go out and find a book shop that you’ll go into thinking “I guarantee I can get every single book in here cheaper on Amazon”.
I’m not going to lie – you probably can. But you know what you don’t get with Amazon? You don’t get to actually hold the book you want to buy, to inhale the fresh smell only a brilliant novel can have, to flick through the pages for no apparent reason other than the fact that you can. Because the book is physically there in front of you. If you’re lucky you might even get a really friendly bookseller who is happy to recommend books to you that they will have actually read because they are a bookseller and books are their passion. They’re not a robot recommending books to you based on books you’ve “previously bought” or because it’s what everyone else is reading.
Phew. That was intense. But let’s just go back to books for just one more minute. Have you ever stopped to think what it would be like if you gathered together every single printed book that exists in the world right now – in every language and every edition – and how many words and stories and morals and struggles and people you would have there in that room with you? You wouldn’t be able to comprehend it. That is what is so wonderful about literature – whatever they do with it, however they market it, whatever form they put it in be it as printed copies or e-books or electronic messages programmed into our brains (give it a few years, I’m sure we’ll get there) people will never stop reading – because people will never stop writing. There, I’ve said all that I wanted to say.