By Carolyn Martinez, Publisher
Myths abound in publishing including:
- Print books are dead.
- Young people are leading the charge to killing off print books.
Contrary, Publishers Weekly reports that 18-34 year olds are leading the charge away from digital devices.
Brisbane author Bryn Smith, who pens the gritty sci-fi award-winning Magnus Nights’ series, agrees.
29-year-old Smith encourages his peers to read print books to thwart algorithms.
‘Reading used to have a monopoly on our entertainment time—except for the odd theatre show and public execution,’ Smith said. ‘Today, books compete with so many things for our time. There’re movies, Netflix, podcasts, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. People have invested a lot of money and technology in these platforms to get us hooked, to keep our eyes on their screens.’
‘The problem is these platforms do not feed your soul and your mind. They feed an algorithm that gives you more of the same and builds a safe little echo chamber. But modern media’s desire to give us a unique, personal experience has a chilling side effect—it separates us. Books however give us a common, shared experience that brings us together.’
Storytelling remains the backbone of community
Storytelling is the backbone of community; a fundamental driver of a happy life. The ability to live multiple lives through the pages of books is one of the reasons I’ve dedicated my life to producing great books. Books bring us together, and they challenge us with new knowledge, new people and new ideas. We incorporate this into ourselves and become a fuller person than we were yesterday. Books make us more human.
One of the biggest publishing stories out of the United States last year was the decision by the U. S. Department of Justice to block Penguin Random House’s $2.18 billion acquisition of Simon & Schuster. The U. S. Department of Justice contended that the purchase would harm top-selling authors by reducing the number of publishers able to bid on the most popular authors, thereby reducing author earnings, and ultimately hurting consumers whose choice would be narrowed—funnelled into ever tightening algorithms.
Bookstores are as essential as hospitals and roads
I’m passionate about preserving our libraries and physical bookstores in Australia. I believe they are just as essential as roads and drainage, hospitals and education. When was the last time you made a morning of it to visit your local library or quaint bookstore? You can’t beat it. I discovered the delightful A Lot of Books in Ipswich, Queensland this weekend.
Undoubtedly, digital and audio books are a valued addition to the storytelling landscape but as Smith suggests let’s not accept them being our only avenue for discovery or we’ll find ourselves mere robots for algorithms.