From Jane Friedman:
I’ve known about this joke for nearly as long as I’ve worked in book publishing. It goes like this: “More than 80% of people say they have a book inside them. And that’s exactly where it should stay.”
While speaking and tweeting at the International Digital Publishing Forum at BEA this week, I had the opportunity to hear Jane McGonigal speak. . . . She shared this statistic:
More than 90% of young people in the United States say they want to write a book someday.
I tweeted the stat, and while there were some people who considered that inspiring, the more common response looked like this:
That’d be inspiring if more wanted to learn basic grammar and improve their reading skills.
But do they want to READ one?
Jane McGonigal saw the responses later and said:
oh my gosh your followers are very cynical about young people wanting to write books! Wow! (Reading their replies)
Unfortunately, every generation is quite the same in this regard, which is nicely expressed in the following 1900s quotation: “The world is coming to an end. Children no longer obey their parents and every man wants to write a book.”
. . . .
What I observe in the reaction:
- There’s an overabundance of books and it’s just as upsetting now as it was in the 1400s. With digital publishing tools, even if you can’t get a publisher, the manuscript doesn’t have to collect dust under the bed. You can publish it. And as Clay Shirky has said, the question today isn’t “Why publish this?” It’s “Why not?”
- We think young people are not as smart, hard working, or [fill in the blank]. Every generation thinks the one after it is somehow deficient. Today’s young people are especially under this burden, as they’re constantly referred to or identified by the fact they grew up with the Internet, or digital devices, which tend to take the blame for the many evils in the world. We’re all fretting about whether or not we’re slowing down enough to read a book—even though we’re likely reading more than ever, just in different formats and mediums.
We are potentially entering a new era—what has been called the Era of Universal Authorship. And one of the tweeted responses did in fact acknowledge this subtext: “That [statistic] is a bit depressing. Not just the competition. That takes away from the notion of writer as identity.”
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Suzie for the tip.