Rather like worrying about the end of the world because of environmental degradation, some of those involved in the reading, writing and publishing world worry about the death of the book. Something is definitely going on, and Jonathan Black, author of ‘The Secret History of the World’, who is not-so-secretly really Mark Booth, head of the Random House imprint Century, has written a fascinating and provocative article about this in The Independent. He makes a convincing case for the imminent collapse of the High Street book chains, and for the demise of the printed book. He links all this skilfully to the esoteric tradition and the rise of the internet.
But what I can’t understand about the theory of the imminent collapse of book-reading is why in that case more and more books are published every year – hundreds of thousands of new titles in English alone. And of course Jonathan Black’s book is selling like hotcakes…
Despite my scepticism, have a look at his article – it’s well worth reading. Here’s how it opens. Follow the link to the full article.
The first printed book in the middle of the 15th century illumined human consciousness like no other technological innovation. Knowledge would no longer be available only to a churchy elite. Freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and creative imagination would evade any attempt to control it. If people had once drifted away on clouds of incense, they were now liberated by the smell of ink.
The evidence in 2008, however, suggests that book reading is in decline. I have worked in publishing for some 25 years and have also recently published a book of my own, conscious that it may be one of the last books. I think some people in the business don’t want to admit that it’s happening. To them it seems a betrayal of skills and standards that generations worked hard to maintain. They see apathy, short attention spans, illiteracy – what Auberon Waugh called the “proletarianisation” of Britain.
But to me these signs are pointing the way to a revolution more radical than Caxton’s. The human mind is about to be turned inside out, opening up new dimensions of consciousness to anyone who isn’t determined to keep the door shut.