Cross my palm with silver... - Simon Cheshire

Meet the future

          With World Book Night just behind us, we've all been celebrating the published word in all its glory. But in a few years' time, I reckon, what bricks and mortar bookshops that remain will all be little kiosks: you'll go in, search and order using a touchscreen (which will be swamped by adverts put there in the last dying gasps of the legacy publishing system), then have a coffee while the nice lady behind the counter prints off a paperback on the Espresso Book Machine out the back, or transmits an ebook to your tablet PC. If chains exist at all, they'll be chains of franchises run by the online booksellers.
          I think I'm havin' one of me mystic blasts here. I'll stick a tea towel on my head and dangle a couple of shower curtain rings from my ears. Let us gaze into the crystal ball (well, the goldfish bowl turned upside down), and let us see what else the future brings for the book trade...
  • June 2012: A midlist author discovers one of their titles on the shelves in WHSmith. The media are alerted. Red-faced, WHS remove the book and apologise.
  • July 2012: Independent bookshops launch a new sales drive to promote a diverse marketplace, by burning effigies of Jeff Bezos outside parliament. A spokesman comments "watch it, book buying public, you're next if you don't smarten your ideas up!"
  • September 2012: An old lady from Bournemouth buys a £50 premium bond, thus guaranteeing the UK public library budget for the 2013/2014 financial year.
  • October 2012: Waterstones think about getting rid of those horrible shelving units. But don't.
  • January 2013: A blog post entitled "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" marks the start of an armed uprising of indie writers against J.A.Konrath and John Locke.
  • February 2013: Amazon buys up several impoverished European nations, and puts the inhabitants to work making knitted covers for the Kindle Fire.
  • March 2013: Another major publishing company gives up and runs home in tears, leaving a pack of interns called Charlotte and Penelope to wander the streets of north London in a state of confusion.
  • December 2013: The marketing team at Barnes & Noble in America make a rude gesture at the  development department of Apple, and are challenged to a fight to the death. There is an unseemly brawl involving hand-paddling and screwed-up eyes, which results in a broken Nook.
  • June 2014: Archaeologists unearth what they believe may be the fossilised remains of the last ever Sony Reader.
  • August 2014: The number of books by James Patterson published each month passes infinity and creates a hole in the space/time continuum.
  • November 2014: Waterstones have a serious rethink about those horrible shelving units. And decide to keep them.
  • April 2015: Publishers from across the UK and America attend the London Book Fair. They chat, gulp wine, sell each other assorted rights, and do everything they did at the same event in 1974. They reassure themselves that this ebook thing will definitely blow over very soon now.
  • May 2020: The manager of the last surviving independent bookshop turns into Khan from Star Trek II and launches a nuclear strike at an Amazon warehouse near Slough, screaming "with my last breath I stab at thee" etc etc. The warehouse is undamaged.
  • The far end of time: Amazon grudgingly agrees to pay UK authors by bank transfer instead of by "check". The universe ends before any payments are due.

Simon Cheshire is a children's writer who'll be your bestest friend ever if you buy his ebooks. 
His website is at 
And his blog about literary history is at


CallyPhillips said…
Yes, thinking about the near future is always interesting/amusing/scary... if you want to see a view of consuming 1960-2030 you could do worse than get Brand Loyalty... Kindle (lite) version just out for £1.95 or the Xtra version for £3.45... UK and US... or buy the paperback from
Oops.. nice post Simon, shameless plug Cally. That World Book Night is going to 'ma heid.'
Susan Price said…
Looks like Cally's been up all night, watching the blog numbers... Simon, I particuarly enjoyed the publishing company running home in tears and the confused interns roaming North London...
Love it. Tweeting it!
Dennis Hamley said…
Simon, that was a BRILLIANT post! Why werne't Sara, Pippa and Rachel accompanying Charlotte and Penelope?
madwippitt said…
Very funny!
And I love the way (proper) Star Trek even gets a mention too! But wot? Not Blake's 7 (troubled e-freedom fighters against the might of the Waterstones federation?)
Anonymous said…
Madwippet, I reckon Amazon must be the Blake's 7 Federation (vast, all-conquering - umm, which I suppose makes Jeff Bezos Servalan). Apple are the Star Trek Federation (also vast, but a bit wet). Maybe Waterstones could be the Klingons (sometimes friendly, sometimes not), and WHSmith are definitely the Ferengi.
Lynne Garner said…
Great post - keeping fingers crossed at least some of these come true. I do hope you found a lovely safe new home for the goldfish before you turned their bowl up-side-down.
Jan Needle said…
brilliant, simon, thanks. i'm taking to me bed now with me kindle to read an indie author. is it true that guardian books have inserted an app into their 'literary' pages that causes a hand to pop out of the page and tweak your nose if you dare to mention such filth? i wouldn't be surprised...
julia jones said…
Love it - very funny - except for the James Patterson joke which may too soon be true. My partner judged the CWA dagger awards once and these wodges thudded onto the door mat about every other month. I kid you not. We needed counselling - or possibly a rottweiler strategically positioned just beneath the letter box

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