Literature: Art or Commercial Product?

I have always held the view that literature is art. A writer writes because he or she has something to tell the world, he wants to have his voice heard, tell his story. Of course the goal is that as many people as possible read his story. He wants to share his ideas with the world.

Often, and especially in days gone past, the only way an author could get people to read his stories was to be published. A publisher would weigh the merits of the story and if it was not found lacking (or at least not lacking too much), then the publisher would decide to publish the book.

Nowadays the majority of authors still write because they have a story to tell. I do not believe that this has changed all that much. But there does seem to be a trend moving towards books being purely commercial products. I have heard of the work of prospective authors being rejected because publishers do not think that it would sell. Now, of course, a publisher has to make a living. But to say that writers should write more vampire novels around the time that Twilight was so popular, because that was “in” at the time seems wrong to me. I am not saying that publishers should be philanthropists, but they should judge the standard of an author’s work not by how popular a particular trend is at the moment, but by how well the book is written, how appealing the story is and how well the plot has been worked out.

Another indicator of this “writing only for money” trend is British author Terry Dreary who recently argued that libraries should be closed because they “are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back.” He then proceeds to argue that libraries cost too much money and that publishers, writers and the taxpayers are being taken advantage of by people who are unwilling to spend money on books. I am not even going to get into how ridiculous his argument is, but I do see it as a sign that the tide has turned and that there are writers and publishers out there who view writing not as a passion, but a clear way to make money.

I am not sure that books written from a money-making perspective are really worth reading. The best books are usually those which are written from the heart, not from the wallet.

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2 thoughts on “Literature: Art or Commercial Product?

  1. I love that last line. I hope it will always be an art form, but that can be harder to find these days (which is one of the many reasons why we need those libraries – so we can dig up the classics when we need to)!

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