|Man with a spiky hat being a Cnut|
Of course there are things to be dismal about. But you know what they are, so I won't list them here - and if you don't, you can look in back issues of The Author for some ideas. Here is the only thing you need to know:
It's not going to change back. Not ever. No matter how much you whinge and whine. The past is a foreign country, and your visa has expired.
Some things are gone.
I read recently, but I can't remember where, that children won't learn to read because the libraries have computers in them instead of books. Well, obviously the libraries should have books in them. But children need to read to use the computer, so that's a stupid argument. It would be better to say children don't read because the classroom has a TV screen instead of a bookshelf. My youngest daughter learnt to read words and phrases such as All Programs, Control Panel and Instal at age 5 (alongside the usual raft of Biff and Chip books).
Reading for pleasure is not the same as reading. Learning to read doesn't need fiction, or even books - after all, children learned to read without there being fiction for them until the nineteenth century. *Of course* I'm not saying we shouldn't promote reading for pleasure, or physical books, or books for children, and it would be desperately sad if we lost these. And I *know* lots of children struggle to learn to read and need lots of help. But our preferred, current model need not be the only one that can ever work. (Indeed, we know it doesn't work that well as we are always arguing about how to improve it.)
Three in ten children in the UK own no books (four in ten for boys) - around four million children. Two thirds of American children living in poverty don't have a single book in their houses.
But nine out of ten children in the UK own a mobile phone. With cheap or free e-books, or e-book borrowing from libraries, perhaps those children will have the chance to read for pleasure, on their phones (and computers, Kindles, etc). Maybe we will have more readers, not fewer.
Yes, I know remote e-book borrowing looks bad for us, as authors (and publishers). But if something doesn't work economically, it won't last forever. If publishers don't make money from e-books because of e-book borrowing, the model will change in some way or they won't produce them any more. The system will self-correct. It might take a few years, cost a few businesses and livelihoods, but in the end something that works will emerge. We must not confuse concern for ourselves with Armageddon. Reading will not die; some publishers/writers might - different issues.
Whatever happens to the shape of publishing and the publishing industry, as writers we provide the key component - the words (the content, in newspeak). Whichever bits of the process can be done without, writing the words is the one that can't. Our words might be differently delivered, marketed, and read, but they are still needed. If you want to survive, don't stand on the beach trying to stop the tide; sit on a raft and wait to be carried by it. Don't forget to take a paddle so you have some control over where you go. We won't achieve anything by whinging and hankering after the past. But we might achieve something by being open to new possibilities.