A few years ago, INTERN read an essay (a rather irate essay, if INTERN recalls correctly) by an author who argued that nobody who doesn't buy new, hardback literary fiction at its full price should be allowed to write literary fiction (or at least, try to get it published). This author set the minimum new hardback purchase quota at something like twelve books per annum. Her reasoning was that authors and publishers of literary fiction rely on hardcover sales to make the whole kerfuffle worth kerfuffling, and that one is simply hypocritical (and a big meanie!) if one wants to see one's name in big letters on a hardcover book but, er, declines to buy them.
INTERN still thinks about this essay from time to time, especially when she's in a bookstore ogling and then regretfully putting down someone's luscious new hardcover. Confession: INTERN has not bought a new, fullprice hardcover since...hmmm....definitely not in the past few years....or the few years before that....well, basically since she was 12 and had a $50 bookstore gift card from Grandma to play with. In fact, even allowing herself to pick up and hold one of those beautiful hardcovers at a bookstore feels like driving through a fancy neighborhood in a beat-up car: it's obvious to everyone that she of the cracked windshield and rusty doors is not really in the market for the mansion with the pineapple-shaped swimming pool.
INTERN supposes that this is where she should enter the fraught discussion of e-books versus print. But what interests INTERN more about this situation is the way that guilt has somehow become a significant feature of INTERN's experience of books, writing, and publishing. INTERN can't stroll into (or rather, out of) a bookstore without feeling guilty, stopped submitting to literary journals she doesn't subscribe to after reading an editorial diatribe against said practice in a literary magazine at the library, and has a very real sense that she's personally contributing to the much-trumpeted Demise of Publishing.
Isn't that weird? People who don't eat at fancy restaurants don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fine Cooking. People who shop for used clothes don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fashion Design. But somehow, not buying those twelve new hardcovers per annum feels tantamount to INTERN personally allowing the poor innocent baby goat of Publishing starve to death.
Is this some weird former-Catholic guilt trip, or do other people feel guilty about books? Is it readers' responsibility to take care of the publishing industry, or should the market just be allowed to do its thang? (INTERN knows precisely zero about economics, but has heard that in some instances, the market is prone to the doing of thangs.) Is it OK to just write and not worry about how many books you've bought, or do writers have a financial responsibility towards other writers?