As the sales of e-books finally start to soar, what effect will this digital revolution have on publishers, readers and writers? Will the novel as we know it survive?
The author Lionel Shriver is someone, she tells me, who enjoys “a conventional authorial life: I get advances sufficient to support me financially; I release my books through traditional publishing houses and write for established newspapers and magazines.” But Shriver, who won the 2005 Orange prize for her eighth novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, is also keeping an increasingly uneasy eye on the situation of 21st-century authors. For a start, there’s the worry that if “electronic publishing takes off in a destructive manner… the kind of fruitful professional life I lead could be consigned to the past.” Then there’s her own reading life, an essential part of the creative process, to consider: “I am personally dependent on the old-fashioned, hierarchical vetting of newspapers and book publishers to locate reading material that’s worth my time. I don’t want to wade through a sea of undifferentiated voices to find articles whose facts are accurate and novels that are carefully crafted and have something to say.”
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