I’m more inclined to think online/digital media will supplement, rather than supplant, their ink’n’paper cousins. But then, I’m barely old enough to remember a time pre internet; its existence, and its role in literary propagation, is as natural to me as print. From my limited perspective, technophiles and bibliomanes need not come to blows. There is, however, what I would call a shift of emphasis taking place: a shift in format, not phenomenon. Writing remains writing. I don’t think print’s spurs will adorn the wall any time soon, but I’d agree its prestige is diminishing, coinciding with, or caused by, an increasing acceptance of online publication as an equally creditable platform.
For those like myself, too green for even the dubious category ‘emerging writer’, there are now more opportunities to publish their writing than there were for any previous generation. Even disregarding the burgeoning number of online literary journals, a personal blog is but a mouse click away from creation, accessible by the entire world. Sure, the dreck will be copious, and is already—but not, I think, to any greater extent than what putrefies beneath glossy covers at your nearest bookstore. I’m not saying everything’s rosy. It’s perhaps harder than ever to make a living from writing, and for my generation it’s well-nigh impossible. I’m not particularly concerned by this. People can quote Dr Johnson all they like, I’ll still maintain that without a financial imperative, there’s even greater freedom to experiment, play, and create something original. To write like it’s an art, not a job.
It may be possible, even likely, that in the future the equivalent of finding a dead author’s manuscript will be stumbling across a long dormant webpage, or that literary awards will be bestowed upon blogs, and that those select few who still own books (imagine!) will be shunned for the degenerate reprobates they are—all this is possible; but in the meantime, I will be reading (and writing) in both mediums, however or wherever the distribution, because in the end, it’s the language itself that matters most, and as long as there remain the usual rogue’s gallery of cheats, hysterics, aesthetes and general obsessives who devote their lives to shaping sentences in beautiful ways—well then, I’ll be content, and do the same.