I have heard readers boast that they never buy books from bookshops, and never spend more than fifty pence buying from amazon or charity shops. I have nothing against shopping in charity shops – I do so myself – or against online suppliers who are efficient and cheap. But for every book that is sold for 50 pence or less, a publisher loses their profit. There’s nothing wrong with publishers making a profit. There is a great deal wrong if they don’t.
3 for 2, buy one get one free, brand new books half price . . . we all love a bargain, but our gain is someone else’s loss. If publishers lose too much, there will be no publishers. Already the market is swamped with self published books. I don’t claim that all self published books are poor quality, or that all traditionally published books are superior. But, like the proliferation of television channels, more quantity inevitably dilutes quality. And publishers do set some standards. At the very least, they are hoping to make back the money they’ve spent producing the book.
We are moving towards a world where everyone can produce their own books, downloadable free. As for professional authors, they won’t have time to write, they’ll be busy working to pay their bills. There’s precious little money to be made from writing now. With no advances or royalties, the cupboard will be completely bare.
If you never spend more than 50 pence on a book – or even one penny as a reader boasted recently – bear in mind that you may be approaching the point of no return. Like lemmings, many readers are rushing over the precipice to a Brave New World where the book as we know it will cease to exist, lost in a morass of blog-like semi-autobiographical works of flaccid fiction whose prose has never heard the scissor snap of an editor’s keys . . .
We all like to feel we are getting something for nothing. Let's hope we don't end up paying a higher price than any of us bargained for.