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'The birth pangs of a golden age'

14 July 2008

'It remains the paradox of the world wide web and the global economy that, while this has been the decade in which millions have found a voice through the internet, only a minority has discovered an audience. Self-expression has been democratised, but books and writers still face that age-old struggle to achieve a readership. How they do that remains a mystery, but in the alchemy of literary success, 'word of mouth' remains essential...

'Behind the brilliant facade of new technology, new money, and new markets, there has indeed been a massive interior renovation in the house of books: senior editors taking early retirement, small imprints selling up, little magazines folding, middle-aged writers giving up and corner bookshops closing down countrywide. At the same time, introspective, old-style bookishness has been replaced by another icon of these times - the literary festival...

'What I have described are the birth pangs of a golden age. The market for the printed book is now global; the opportunities for the digital book are almost unimaginable. To be a writer in the English language today is to be one of the luckiest people alive.'

Robert McCrum in the Observer