When I was younger there were a few bands who I was obsessed with; everything they released, I would buy. Thousand Yard Stare (or Thousand Yard Who? as their own t-shirt ironically described them) and Oasis were probably the two most extreme examples. In recent years Gilles Peterson probably comes closest; I bought pretty much every single Brownswood release for the first year of its existence.
These were rock stars (or bands or DJs, but I prefer the term rock stars) who I followed slavishly. What occurred to me recently is that I now mimic this behaviour with authors. That is, there are certain authors whose books I will buy without reading a review, simply because of who wrote them.
For me these include David Mitchell (not the comedian), Bernard Cornwell, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Tom Holland, Robert Harris & Neal Stephenson. And George R.R. Martin, obviously. They are writers whose back catalogue is of such quality that I am convinced that anything new they release will be brilliant. And normally is.
They’re also the writers whose books I will continue to buy in physical format. The subject of this topic struck me after I went into a book shop at Sydney airport yesterday intending to buy a copy of The Economist and came out with the new Cornwell novel. And because I discovered, whilst reading this, that Harris also has a new book out, I’ll probably have another book by the time I get back to Sydney tonight.
For the rest, it’s likely to be the Kindle. With luck, a few more of these rock stars will be able to follow the ultimate rock star author, J.K. Rowling, and create their own competitors to Amazon so that it doesn’t become the gate-keeper to all reading experiences. What will be interesting is how many authors will learn from their peers in the music industry and try to create deeper connections with these fans; Gaiman is a shining example and hopefully more will follow him.