Sorry I've been out of touch recently. I haven't been on a blog strike, and no, it's not because I'm still reading Martin Amis's Money, as someone has suggested (it's true that I am a slow reader, but not that slow). I have been incredibly busy with a series of exciting books, from a Catalan novel, The Invisible City, to an eighteenth-century rediscovery (Swift's The Wonderful Wonder of Wonders) to the wonderful Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy and a few other great books that will appear in the next couple of weeks. I would have liked to comment on many of the recent news – Super Thursday, Waterstone's Hub, the new Kindle, the closure of Books Etc., etc. etc. etc. – but life has gone faster than my fingers, or even my brain. I hope to catch up soon.
Today I walked back home from the office and I was almost raped by a newspaper maniac who was dispensing free copies of The Evening Standard. Piles and piles of copies were lining the walls behind him. I manage to dodge him, but there were a couple of his colleagues round the corner, and I stumbled at the last hurdle and got a free copy myself. I don't usually read The Evening Standard – maybe because I don't commute, or maybe because I think it has the information value of a medicine's information leaflet. Anyway, I did get this copy – I arrived home five minutes later and threw it in our recycle bin. Why did I do that? Because for me it had no value – I had not paid for it, so I didn't care much about it. By making something free, you devalue it – and although this populistic move has been endorsed by great celebrity quotes, I think the Russian tycoon who took over the ailing paper will live to regret this.
Have you seen all those free DVDs, CDs and even books that are given away by Sunday newspapers these days? No doubt they'll generate some more sales for the struggling papers, but who watches or listens to them? Who reads those book? Will they make any money to the record labels or book publishers? I very much doubt. Penguin has been giving away some horribly printed green classics of late – a disservice to publishing and to Penguin – and surely a waste of paper and resources.
The time is coming when the majority of people will stop going into bookshops simply because so much content – information, comment, fiction, even research – is available for free.
And when that happens, we'll all be consigned to the recycle bin of history.