I was contacted by Finn Harvor, a Canadian writer and artist teaching in South Korea, to talk about the state of publishing, ebooks and the future of literature.
FH: What is your take on the current depressed state of literary publishing? Is it a passing phase? Or is it an intractable problem — in other words, it is the new normal? And if the latter, what can be down to counteract it?
LN: In Canada, despite the recession, book sales are up, so I’m not sure that literature is in a terrible state. The demise of the novel, for example, was mourned in magazines like Atlantic a hundred years ago, and it’s still going strong. The fact is that popular entertainment has always been, well, more popular then literature. That goes back to the days of bread and circuses. But that doesn’t mean that art and literature aren’t important or don’t have an impact beyond their sales. The impact can be felt in many ways, language, social impact, ideas, beauty, and because of that human impulse and need that goes beyond particular distribution methods or profit demands, literature will continue to be made and read.