I am, by nature, an optimist. I can’t help but hope for the best, even when everything points the other way, because doing anything else gets me in such a state of doom and gloom that I’m no fun to be around. So working in, living, breathing and spending most of my free-time as part of the book has down-right crushed and squashed my optimism these past few weeks (months? Years?). Let’s face it: the book world is currently inundated with worry about the future, with the rise of Amazon, the decline of bookstores, online piracy, and the “decline” of literature. The list goes on and you’ve heard it all before. I’m not here to rehash it all over again. I hear you, doom and gloomers, and I realize you have some seriously valid points, but so do the optimists.
Let’s back up fifteen years. I grew up in a great town. It’s not small, it’s not big. It’s ordinary. I listened to a top 40 radio station. There were, and are, no independent bookstores there. If they existed when I was a child, I was never taken to them and they have since closed. I read the books everyone else read. I listened to the music that everyone else listened to. I didn’t have the curators that articles like this one from Salon talk about. I didn’t have a cultural place where I could go and talk about music or books or movies.
Then, the Internet happened. The internet that is currently destroying literature and small business as we know it! For me, it woke me up. I read about the wide world out there. I joined message boards. I found my first online communities, centered around poetry and bands I liked. I found out about music that never crossed our mid-size town radios. I found books I never would have read. Most of all, and best of all, I found people. I found community. I found everything I’d been missing.
Eventually, I found friends in my hometown who cared as much about books and music as I did and we’re all still friends today. Now, I live in a big city. There are curated bookstores every few blocks, and while I love the experience of walking into an independent bookstore and buying a book, I still turn to my internet communities for suggestions, recommendations, and conversations. Yes, Amazon is having and will continue to have a huge impact on the publishing industry. Blogging and social media are changing the industry as we speak. But I don’t think all the changes are bad.
The internet is an amazing place, filled with places were people can go and be passionate, no matter where they live, and it will continue to be the new center of the industry. When I load up Twitter or Google Reader, I see hundreds of people who are so enthusiastic about books they fill their lives with them. I think about my sisters who were never big readers, but who now devour books as fast as they can download them onto their Nooks. I’m not worried about the future of books. I’m excited. No doubt the industry is changing; I’m fairly certain all industries are changing at the moment. There will be some bumps along the way, but as long as we’re all still reading books, things are looking pretty great around here.
Leslie Fannon is a blogger, crocheter, graduate student and, most recently, an assistant at a publishing company. She writes about poetry, graphic novels, and Spanish literature at Regular Rumination. Follow her on Twitter: @lulu_bella