Friday, May 9, 2008

Discrimination - Part One

Discrimination is an integral part of our lives. To be labeled discriminating when selecting a car or a coat is a good thing.

There is, however, a dark side to the act of discrimination. We go there when we make choices or decisions that have nothing whatever to do with individual merit. We go there when we are afraid.

At a mystery conference a few years ago, I listened to a best-selling thriller writer deliver the opening speech. In it, she bemoaned the loss of readers in general and then condemned independent and subsidy-published writers for flooding the market with books that readers chose over hers.

Several rebuttals come to mind immediately.

First, librarians tell me that reading is up. It is the manner of reading that is changing. People are reading with their ears rather than with their eyes. Audio books, in all formats, are flying off the shelves, so to speak.

Second, books are expensive and they take up a lot of space. I stopped buying books some time ago. I patronize my library. Now, with the focus on environmental responsibility, libraries make even more sense. This writer should be careful not to confuse readers with buyers. Sales may be down but her readership may be up.

Finally, that thriller writer may have declining sales because readers no longer want to read what she writes. People’s tastes change. She should examine her product and decide if it needs to be altered or replaced with a new one. She would not be the first writer to do that. We all love Spenser but we like Jesse Stone, too.

Writing is a craft; publishing is a business and that business is rapidly morphing into something entirely different. If this thriller writer owns an iPod, she is part of the change that happened in the music business. Similar changes can be seen in book publishing. She probably feels the revolution in the music business was good. She benefits from it. Obviously she, and others like her, feel those same changes in the publishing industry are not good. They are afraid.

In their fear, they lash out. They announce that the writers who have embraced the change are lower class and unworthy. They close doors to marketing opportunities. They prevent us from participating in conferences and professional organizations.

In other words, they discriminate.

No comments: