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'A medium of limitless potential and surprise'

9 May 2005

'Too many books? It's true that Britain alone publishes about 120,000 new titles a year, a ten-fold increase on 1905. So what? Most of these new books have the shelf life of yoghurt and get recycled into lavatory rolls quicker than you can say The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

In an age of rampant capitalism, in the middle of a colossal information-technology revolution unparalleled since Gutenberg, it would be surprising if there was not a colossal overproduction...

No, the barbarians are not at the gate. It's an age of awesome variety we are living in. English in all its thrilling, international forms, from romance to rap, is finding more colour and expression than at any time since Spenser, Marlowe and Jonson.

Indeed the kaleidoscope of English and American publications today is probably closer in spirit and self-expression to the Shakespearean extravaganza, offering a medium of limitless potential and surprise, in a language that media corporations such as the BBC should be grateful for.'

Robert McCrum in his excellent column in the Observer