With the growing network of internet and booming sales of smart phones and tablets (even phablets have been introduced now), I was expecting the book-selling industry to be hampered. And to a certain extent my logical approach I was right. One could easily find books on websites on a much reduced price. On one hand, sites like Amazon, Flipkart and Ebay have grabbed this opportunity really well by selling heaps of books at sub market prices. On the other hand, low prices of books have made them within the purchasing power of many. With time the market seemed to have reached equilibrium.
Avid book readers are happier because having a personal book collection is no more an expensive hobby. With almost 50% of the books well within the reach of middle class, the scenario has clearly changed in past one decade.
Where previously only noted well off historians or economists or lecturers could afford to have a vast collection of books, now every teenager has that luxury. A clear advantage is that knowledge available at a cheap price to anyone who wants it.
In addition, this has majorly boosted the confidence of young authors. Where the size of every fast selling novel ranges from 75-400 pages, it has become an achievable target for most aspiring authors. In fact, past few Indian best-sellers have no tough vocabulary that one has to sit with a dictionary. This is totally in contrast to the taste of people from a century ago, where only the literary works of Shakespeare or Emily Bronte were much appreciated.
Any English language major would be able to justify how the markets of books have changed since 1930s. Fewer people read complicated and original versions of accomplished writers such as Emily Bronte or Tennyson. Thanks to the adaptation and re-writing, even children books like Gulliver’s Travel have become easier to comprehend.
So, are the readers of today generation pleased and charmed by just a normal book in English? Of course not! Poems of Robert Frost are still a benchmark for judging talent. And maybe that’s all they have become, a benchmark. But yes to a certain extent, an easy to comprehend language is more appealing to the masses, where the classes still prefer quality work only.
Over the years people have tried to ape the style of writing of successful writers, but that happens no more. We have our own Agatha Christies, Sherlock Holmes and Rabindranath Tagores in the making.
But do these generation-X writers reach the fame of honorary writers? Yes indeed. The successes of J.K.Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and author of 50 shades (who was it???) are clear indications that one has to be good at what they write, be it any genre, and have to either adapt with the generation or think ahead of it.
So not only has reduced price of books benefited the readers, it has given a moral boost to writers, since the risk involved is much lesser. Many write their books or novels as a part-time and as a hobby rather than indulging in it full-time, at least not until they have received an initial kick of success.
People are more willing to launch books in various languages because they know that they can reach out to various locations. Interest in regional and other internationally used languages is boosted when there are a good variety of latest books. Even the production houses are more willing to take bets. I have read some horrible and amateur love stories with a vague story line hidden behind the hoo-ha of fiction. At such times I really appreciate the books by Steve Jobs or Mark Twain, at least they are worth the money I spent on them.
In my opinion, it is not just the low risk or charm of instant success which drives so many people to become authors or poets; it is the need to be heard. With our society being much open and receptive to all sorts of bizarre ideas (school of magic or vampires living within our community), it has become easier for the authors to reflect what they think in their writings.
Obviously there is no comparison to the classics. They are a class apart. But how many authors made it to that league of successful authors in those times? And how many successful authors are there today? So much difference, isn’t it? Indeed classic authors are still a class apart today. Nobody can compare with the libraries of classes and masses Salman Rushdie has breached. But such authors are few. There are more of mass writers than class writers today. Don’t you feel?
This is not true in the case of the superheroes though. Since they arrived in comic books and finally made their way into movies, they have been a hit, pleasing the masses and the classes. So it is obvious, creativity is required to sell your product; originality not so much.
So, has the technology helped the business of book selling indeed? For people who don’t want to carry books around when travelling or ones who feel books create a crowd in the reading room, it is the best thing that could ever happen. Of course, the people who like the touch and smell and vision of books continue to buy books.
But there is another class of world citizens rising to become readers. Ones who were interested in culture of other countries but could not afford to travel or pay for international shipping of books – they now have e books at their service. The ones who secretly read fiction and love stories while pretend that such books are a waste (peer pressure) can now easily hide, thanks to e books. The ones who were interested in reading books written in previous century but are allergic to old yellow pages can now read away to glory on their tablets/smart phones.
Such is the era we are living in, anything and everything we want to read is a click away. Be it buying a hard copy from a site online, or bidding on an original version of a novel by an author, or just a pdf or doc version of a book, it is all possible.
Knowledge increases with sharing. Thankfully sharing is cheap or free now a days.