Looking Ahead to 2011

The new year brings with it a fair share of crystal-balling about what the year ahead holds and according to the Independent the publishing industry has plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

In an article interviewing several publishing bigwigs, literary editor Boyd Tonkin believes in “the survival of a culture of the written word, whatever happens on the ever-stormy seas of technological innovation and consumer economics”. While Tonkin saw a “‘we’re all doomed’ tendency” in 2010, he believes that this year “book lovers need to embark on a chapter of hope”.

Chief executive at Faber and Faber Stephen Page chimes in that this new decade will “see new dynamics in how readers find what they want to read and how writers engage with their readership” and he’s excited about the opportunities for smaller publishers. Lennie Goodings, publisher at Virago Press, continues to have “faith in authors and I have faith in readers. I have seen too much evidence that shows us that books continue to matter, that good writing will move and nourish us.”

Bigger publishers have plenty of optimism in their prognostications. Chief executive of Random House Gail Rebuck reckons “the physical book remains central to our activities” looking forward speifically to new books by Haruki Murakami, Michael Ondaatje, Julian Barnes, Robert Harris and Lee Child. Even agents are caught in the upswing with Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown praising the rise of e-books over the Christmas break which will “revitalise backlists of authors and should allow experimentation among book buyers… 2011 will be [the] year the publishing world will have to think on its feet, and that should be exciting.”

But if all this upbeat talk is too much Canadian author Douglas Coupland has an antidote with his A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years. The first is “It’s going to get worse” but he gets slightly more practical with tips like “Try to live near a subway entrance” (because skyrocketing oil prices will make these properties more valuable) and “You’re going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought”.

And while publishing pundits are praising the eternal spirit of storytelling, the Generation X author is decidedly grim: “It will become harder to view your life as ‘a story’”. As Coupland sees it:

The way we define our sense of self will continue to morph via new ways of socializing. The notion of your life needing to be a story will seem slightly corny and dated. Your life becomes however many friends you have online.

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