Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The Future of Publishing?
The afternoon included a typically elegiac, mandarin speech by former LATimes book editor Steve Wasserman on the future of publishing. We've entered what he calls "an ultimate stage in the democratization of knowledge."
It's also, he said, a time when digital technology, conglomeration, the collapse of bookstores, independent and otherwise, "renders serious reading increasingly irrelevant." He fears a "hollowing out" of the culture of sustained argument that makes for an informed citizen.
Literary people, Steve feared, will become "the party of the past." He compared the situation in the U.S. to Europe and especially Germany, where state controls (forbidding price-slashing) kept an indie bookstore culture thriving even in bad economic times.
He offered two contrasting phrases. First, Philip Roth's prediction that the novel will go the way of Latin, known only to a small elite. And second, Auden's line, "It is always a danger for the present to write history in the future tense."