Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The ground is shifting beneath our feet.

Blechta in cold, snowy Toronto.

There seems to be an overarching theme to the chatter on Type M lately, and like everything else in our lives lately, it centres around, “Just what the heck is going on with all those things that we once thought of as ‘the norm’?”

Welcome to the world of the New Norm, that is, nothing you thought was true, solid, substantial is anything more than a chimera. Things seem to change daily. Here in Canada, our House of Commons is closed. We have a prime minister who managed in the space of one week to unite the opposition parties against him to the point where his government would have fallen on Monday if he hadn’t managed to get Parliament closed. He opened a wide rift between the east and west in this country and reignited Quebec separatism. All this in one week. Safe, nice, secure Canada has been turned upside down and shaken hard. No one has absolutely any idea what will happen in January when Parliament reconvenes except that things will change yet again.

But that’s just an off-topic example. We’re here to talk about what we do: write books.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like the little Dutch boy trying to hold back a flood with his fingers – except I’m running out of fingers. Technology is forcing the publishing industry to change. It’s down to the point where we writers have to wonder just how the heck we’re going to ply our craft and even continue making the small amounts we now make.

A few years ago, Google announced that it wanted to scan all books and put them online. That was quashed, but it still is a very real possibility. E-books are beginning to make real inroads, people are buying fewer bound volumes, bookstores go bust by the handful every day. People all over are losing their jobs. Oh, the tragedy of it all!

And now we stand on the edge of what might well be the most severe economic downturn in 80 years.

I’m sure the scribes who hand-copied books at the dawn of the printing press felt the same way we do now. The abyss opened at their feet, too. But writing survived – and even thrived like never before.

Television was the death of radio – NOT. It would also kill the movies. Didn’t happen. Every new technological advance displaces an earlier one. Naysayers proclaim the end of life as we now know it, but eventually, everything just finds a new equilibrium and things continue down a different path. We all get used to it.

We have that truism to cling to right now. It’s going to be a rough ride for the next few years, but it’s my belief that somehow we’ll come out the other side with a new model for disseminating our works, and it might even be more equitable than the model we have now.

See you on the other side.


Vicki Delany said...

we can only hope. Day 5 and still no reply from the Globe and Mail.

Rick Blechta said...

They're all in Ottawa...

Vicki Delany said...

As am I, actually.