Robert McCrum in yesterday’s Observer asks the question “Is it really doomsday for books?” and comes up with some interesting answers. As he says “2010, not three weeks old, bears all the signs of a watershed year”. Borders closed at the end of last year and sales at Waterstones are down. Barnes and Noble stores are experiencing a similar slump and so they have created the Nook, an e-reader which will compete with Amazon’s Kindle. Speaking of which, last December 25th saw Amazon e-book sales overtake print for the first time.
Writers are experiencing a similar crisis with publishing house slush pile discoveries becoming a thing of the past and advances to authors dwindling. Nielsen Bookscan has found that of 86,000 new titles published in the UK in 2009, 59,000 sold an average of 18 copies, which I suppose must be the average number of family members and friends that an author can convince to buy their book.
It’s all very depressing for an as yet unpublished novelist! However I refuse to be beaten down by bad news. I am somewhat heartened to hear that celebrity memoirs are finally beginning to loosen their hold on the public. A world in which Katie Price has not one but three autobiographies on the shelves is not a world I particularly want to live in.