Published 31 January 2009 · Main Posts writing, yes; reading, not so much Jeff Sparrow More bleak book news from the New York Times: The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them. At least, that is what the evidence suggests. Booksellers, hobbled by the economic crisis, are struggling to lure readers. Almost all of the New York publishing houses are laying off editors and pinching pennies. Small bookstores are closing. Big chains are laying people off or exploring bankruptcy. A recently released study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while more people are reading literary fiction, fewer of them are reading books. Meanwhile, there is one segment of the industry that is actually flourishing: capitalizing on the dream of would-be authors to see their work between covers, companies that charge writers and photographers to publish are growing rapidly at a time when many mainstream publishers are losing ground. […] “Even if you’re sitting at a dinner party, if you ask how many people want to write a book, everyone will say, ‘I’ve got a book or two in me,’” said Kevin Weiss, chief executive of Author Solutions. “We don’t see a letup in the number of people who are interested in writing.” To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing. A publishing contract simply means that a business thinks they can make money from a particular piece of writing: if publication’s any measure of aesthetic value, it’s only indirectly. No, what’s depressing about the NYT piece is the suggestion of writing perceived as self-valorisation rather than communication. Of course, writing always involves ego. But if the book’s just about my need to see myself as creative, what’s in it for anyone else? Hence the gulf between the desire of people to write and the desire of people to read. It’s the same phenomenon manifested in the Australian poetry scene. As has often been said, if a tiny proportion of those who wrote poetry actually bought the poems of others, well, the infrastructure of contemporary poetry would be transformed. In any other context, someone who talked but never listened would be unbearable. Why should it be any different with writing? Jeff Sparrow Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland. More by Jeff Sparrow › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202311 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the final day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s most important members get to have their say Editorial Team BORIS A quick guide to another year of Overland, from your trusty feline, Boris. I liked the ginger cat story, though it made my human cry. I liked the talking cat, too, but I’m definitely in the “not wasting my time learning to talk” camp. But reading is good. And writing is fun, though it’s been challenging […] 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 9 November 20239 November 2023 · Subscriberthon 2023 On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, Overland’s co-chief editor Evelyn Araluen speaks truth to power Editorial Team To my friends and comrades, I’m not sure if there’s language to communicate how this last month has utterly changed me. This time a few weeks ago the busyness and chaos of bricolage arts and academic labour had so efficiently distracted me from my anxiety about the upcoming referendum that I forgot to prepare myself for its inevitable conclusion.