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“Crap” books undermine print, warns Florence
11.06.12 | Lisa Campbell
Hay Festival founder Peter Florence has warned that it is “almost impossible” to make a case for the retention of the printed book as an artifact while publishers continue to produce “crap books”. But insisted that it was “what’s in the book” that was important, not the format.
Speaking at the festival to The Bookseller’s sister publication We Love This Book, Florence was asked if the printed book was an “art form” that could disappear as the rise of e-book reading grows. In response, he said the physical quality of books currently produced in the UK compared poorly to the quality of publishing outputs such as that of New York house Knopf.
“I think it’s almost impossible for anybody in Britain to argue for the artifact of the book because we just make crap books,” Florence said. “Even the very best efforts of Jonathan Cape and Faber & Faber are ugly, mucky things in comparison with what Knopf do. I mean, those guys really make a book that’s beautiful.
"But I’m far more interested in what’s in the book. The argument that there are e-books and old books and new books and paperbacks—I don’t care and I don’t think in the general scheme of things it matters for anyone what happens in Britain.”
But Florence also predicted the digital revolution would make publishers more relevant as a filter mechanism to help consumers choose the best works to read. “Publishers will become more valuable in a digital world because where there are no limits to who can publish, the idea of tastemakers—people whose imprimatur as publishers and supporters of a particular libraryof writers who can guarantee quality—will be absolutely vital,” he said.
Florence also used the interview, in the 25th year of the event he founded with his father Norman Florence, to dismiss literary journalism as a craft of the past. “All sort of other arbiters will also come into play. The people that nobody trusts is the journalists. Literary journalism is so devalued that it's been replaced by—and I think this is rather a good thing
—it's been replaced by people who love books and who want to share books that they love. Nobody wants to read about somebody bitching about somebody they’re not as talented as,” he said.
Hay Festival began on 31st May and will run until Sunday 10th June.
The full interview with Peter Florence including other features and analysis from Hay can be viewed at www.welovethisbook.com.