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Books have gotten expensive both to buy and to make―along with paper, food, and everything else as inflation (which is a hidden tax imposed by greedy governments and businesses) rises on the basis of ridiculous excuses. Shipping disruptions empty shelves and stop production of all manner of items thanks to global power games by people most of us have never heard of. The US dollar is losing value worldwide, being supplanted by other currencies and by silver and gold. And politicians pretend to be relevant, while proving daily that they are not.

Ultimately, I am told, the whole system on which the world runs will collapse. Only illusion promoted by corporate banks, corporate governments, corporate media, and corporate industry has kept it alive this long.

That sounds like a doomsday scenario from a dystopian novel. But is it really? Is it the end or a beginning? Is it disaster or opportunity?

From the point of view of an author and reader, it is a sticky question. Writing is easier (for some of us, at least) with a computer. Reading, too, for those who prefer e-books. Publishing and distribution has also become simpler by way of the internet. Printing companies can now be located anywhere, and paper products may be made half a world away. If all that ends, even those lucky enough to be best-selling authors will struggle. In the old paradigm, that is.

But not so long ago, people wrote books by hand and published them through local or regional printers, who got paper and inks and binding materials from manufacturers nearby. Granted, the old presses required a great deal of effort to pump out even small volumes, and one cannot imagine many thousand-page novels making it to store shelves. Moreover, authors who published more than a few books in their lifetime were rare.

Is that so bad? Do we really need millions of new books being printed every year, most of them selling few or no copies? Will authors not write better books if they are not pressured by publishers or by marketing practice to crank out at least one book every year? Will readers be worse off with a dwindling To Be Read pile instead of one that threatens to overwhelm all known space?

Life will change, one way or another and like it or not. It always does. The trick is to stop fearing a storm and instead look for the silver lining in any dark cloud. Who knows, maybe those books collecting cyber-dust will end up hand-printed, hand-painted, hand-bound, and cherished for generations to come.

What will you do, if the presses stop rolling?

[Photo courtesy of philipp k of]