Hi, Neil. In a recent VlogBros. video Hank Green said that 50 Shades of Grey has sold more copies than the number of books Ray Bradbury sold in his lifetime. That worries me, and I’m afraid that it will become increasingly difficult to find brilliant literature in the future. Do you think the commercialization of literature (if that’s an appropriate phrasing) has put good, thoughtful and valuable literature at risk? The aforementioned statistic seems rather ominous. Thanks for reading.
If ever you’re curious, go and look at the annual bestseller lists for years gone by. You’ll find a lot of books that sold an unbelievable number of copies when they were fashionable. I’m sure The Revolt of Mamie Stover also sold more books than Ray Bradbury will ever have sold in his whole life in its year. Have you read it? Heard of it? Off the top of my head, Peyton Place in its year, or The Gospel According to Peanuts, or The Ginger Man, or even Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in their years undoubtedly outsold all of Ray Bradbury. But when their day is done, mostly those kind of books drift back into the void, and go, if not out of print, then back into a world where, even if a select few people like them, nobody quite knows why they sold that many copies any more. (Do you know who Gilbert Patten was? He sold about 500 million books in his lifetime…)
Meanwhile, Ray Bradbury sold quite a lot of books in 1956, and quite a lot of books in 2006 (Fahrenheit 451 alone has sold over 5 million copies by now), and he found his readers for his books and his stories in every year. And I’ll wager a hundred years from now he’ll still be read…
So, honestly, I wouldn’t fret, if I were you.
Nothing’s changed.Some books are, often inexplicably, bestsellers. That’s been the way of it for a hundred and fifty years or more.
Read the books you love, tell people about authors you like, and don’t worry about it.