Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Place Where Writers are Respected

Do you ever feel like the whole word is writing and publishing a book? Given that well over a million books are published worldwide every year, I can understand why. So, I was amused to read a BBC article which states that one in every ten residents of Iceland will publish a book, and this is from a population of 300,000 people!

Apparently, there more writers and more books published and read in Iceland than anywhere else in the world. In fact, reading is so popular there that public benches have barcodes enabling you to listen to a story on your Smartphone while you sit. Not only that, writers can make a living there, which is odd given the competition. But here’s the thing. Writers are also respected. Whattt??? Every household receives a book catalogue which is thoroughly pored over. Books are a huge Christmas gift item and the country abounds with festivals.

Did you also know that Iceland has a Nobel Laureate (1955) named Halldor Laxness and that he’s so highly regarded in Iceland that his books are sold everywhere, including gas stations, and that people name their cats after him? High praise indeed.

Okay, so you might be thinking that well, it’s Iceland; what else have they got to do? Certainly that’s a point, but Iceland also has incredible geography and apparently a lot of talented people who write riveting books. Of course, with all those people writing and selling, there’s competitive pressure, which publishers definitely feel. Still, as a writer and a reader, I’d thrive in such a place.

Interestingly, the article made no reference to the self-publishing revolution, e-books or the competition from digital entertainment, which is a shame. I would like to know if Icelanders have made room for both, or if they’ve simply not embraced technology the way we North Americans have.

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