Kathryn Rusch had a fascinating blog on this topic. I’ve attached the link, but I want to comment.
She compared what is happening in the publishing field to what happened in broadcasting several years back. There used to be just three main television broadcast networks and they got to choose what the viewers saw. So if “I Love Lucy,” “Sonny and Cher” and “The News Hour” were on at a certain time, millions would choose between those three shows. That’s because the market was large and the distribution small.
When we had just “The Big Six” publishing houses, what we bought to read was what they decided would sell. In some cases they were right, but our choices were controlled by what they decided they wanted to offer.However, now with the advent of cable, netflix, (streaming video) and hundreds of stations, not to mention computer shows and Utube, the choices are huge and the market spreads out, picking and choosing among a wide variety of offerings. In addition, more games, video content and programs are available with time shifting to take up the market’s limited leisure time.
I play Words with Friends (scrabble) with my sister…across the country. I’m in Portland and she’s in Nashville. I watch late night talk shows at 2 p.m. thanks to Tivo and the ablility to time shift television to when and what I want to watch. I can control more than ever what I want to read or see, and when I want to read or see it.
So it isn’t that less people are reading, as the big houses might have you believe, it’s that the choices are spread out across the board filling in unique niches. Readers are packing twenty, forty, fifty or more books onto an iPad or kindle to rest at their bedside, or taking them along easily when they travel. They’re downloading stories from author’s websites or co-op writers websites where the author or authors sell books through Square Space, Paypal or an Amazon link.
The mortar and brick stores are in trouble. When we were in Mexico and I wanted something to read, Amazon downloaded onto my Kindle the best seller “The Dragon Tattoo” within minutes for less than seven dollars.
I was out of the country!
And what I’m doing is nothing compared to how my my twenty something daughter organizes her life nowadays.
We’re in the middle of a revolution, my friends, and it should be interesting what it all looks like ten years from now.
That’s why I like science fiction….because it speculates about what might come next.
Iain Banks was just nominated for a 2013 Locus Award for The Hydrogen Sonata
I’d give it 4****The first scene starts out with two very drunk men, one a high ranking lord and the other a mercenary soldier who are being shelled by enemy fire at the local palace. The dialog is very funny and the scene enjoyable. We discover that the mercenary, Cheradenine Zakalwee, (yes that’s the name) takes on various specialty jobs for a woman known as Diziet Sma who is constantly accompanied by a bodyguard drone named Skaffen-Amtiskaw. She is an alien from an ancient group called “The culture.”
The story then is the telling of these adventures strung like pearls along a narrative necklace…only the necklace jumps around in time much like the novel Slaughter House Five.
You jump from one experience to another, each time Zakalwee almost dies and the drone or woman arrives in her ship just in time to patch him up and send him back out on another assignment.
In between the telling of these experiences, Zakalwee relives a traumatic childhood. His father is a wealthy nobleman and Zakalwee grew up on a noble’s mansion with three other children, two sisters and another young male whose father is in prison for high level treason.
Often Zakalwee is in a half-conscious state while recovering between jobs, and as he relives his childhood, he adds in pieces of the puzzle of what happened ‘back then.”
Bank’s strength is his clever dialog and interesting events. His weakness is that the reader gets very confused about the line of the story. Some of that is done on purpose, but it makes for disruptive reading when you have to stop and piece together what timeframe you’re in and who are the players this time and what are their real motivations.
Banks covers all the action with an aura of mystery that is spiced with mercenary humor. Sma (the woman) bickers with her drone as she pushes Zakalwe from one job, saves him and throws him into another. Once or twice I thought he was supposed to stop a war, but she may have really expected him to advance it. This confusion sorts out to a satisfying or at least an understandable dramatic ending.
The book was not what I expected. There is much more emotion and interesting relationships along with battle humor.