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Dec 17, 2019 06:33 AM EST

A New Era of Readership: How Literature and Publishing Changed in the 21st Century

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We were told a while back that books would be a thing of the past. A new century had dawned, our lives were digitized, and there was certainly no longer any need to drag the pressed pulp of dead trees. And yet, the book's death seems to have been greatly exaggerated over the past decade.

When we step into the 2020s, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the book's revival, while realizing that other opportunities of storytelling are opening up not just in the marketplace but in the minds of readers. The fact that we spend more and more time online can distract us from reading, but it may also mean that readers have more ways to find the stories they need.

People search for beautiful books when they set up their digital devices. Publishers acknowledge that people now are willing to pay for something special. And readers are discovering new ways into understanding literary texts.

No one can skip the dramatic increase in audiobook sales. Audiobooks have evolved from the sensational sales of e-books which are commonly catered by Amazon's Kindle. Even if it was one you liked reading, listening to a book can be a fascinating complementary experience. The 2017 Booker Prize winning book Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is told in over a hundred voices. Listen out for Susan Sarandon, Bradley Whitford, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader, among many celebrities.

But of course, your game may be short and sweet. In that case, poetry from Instagram is for you. The Canadian-Punjabi poet Rupi Kaur, who has almost 4 million followers on the social media platform, may be the most successful to date.

Social media has enabled a writer like Kaur to find her voice and unmediated by traditional publishers to find her audience. This was definitely the biggest overall improvement we've seen over the past decade. What we've seen in those ten years is a marketplace full of opportunities for authors, but that's no less difficult.

Digital behemoth Amazon announced in 2017 that more than 1,000 independent writers in the United States - writing on the Kindle site - received royalties worth more than $100,000.

One of the biggest publishing hits of the past decade is the Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, which began life as self-published fan fiction before being picked up by major publisher Vintage. By 2014, the trilogy's first book, released in 2011, had sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

Publishing has failed to catch up with the 21st century at times. Some things don't change, despite a fast-turning world. Shakespeare & Company has just celebrated its 100th birthday, the glamorous English-language bookstore on the left bank of Paris. It's a space that brings together the best of the old world and the new with a new café that hold events on a weekly basis. For both readers and writers, it is a place of pilgrimage: a place with a real passion to books - and passion is eternal at all times.

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