Mood Reading

June 6th, 2006 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

Reading is a funny thing. If you can do it (and, sadly, not everyone can, but that’s another post for another day), you do it without thinking. All day long, you take in letters forming words forming paragraphs forming stories. When you’re reading, you’re at the car wash, the dentist, work, home, on the subway, standing in line at the grocery store. You pick up a book, glance at the newspaper, visit a website, read a sign. It’s all reading, it’s about context, and there’s no kind of reading that is superior to the other.

Sometimes you, the reader, are so inspired or incensed by what you’ve read, you pick up a pen or fill out a form or draft an email or make a call and share your thoughts about what you’ve read. Sometimes the author writes (etc) back. Sometimes someone else picks up your thought and takes it in another direction. Sometimes you’re so inspired, you create something of your own; sometimes you (as mixed with the original artist) inspire someone else. And so it goes.

This is all to say that digital publishing isn’t especially radical. The blogosphere is all a-twitter (such a lovely concept when you think positive thoughts) with the New York Times’ digital publishing story. See, digital publishing is scrambling the industry’s rules. But not really.

We like to think of new media as being off-the-map, but the truth of the matter is that while the tools are changing, the actual act of creating remains largely untouched. Art builds upon art which builds upon art. But, yeah, the industry rules are changing.

Which is why we got a good chuckle out this (we’re sorry, but really, the outrage is too…naive… to bypass):

“Does that mean ‘Anna Karenina’ goes hand in hand with my niece’s blog of her trip to Las Vegas?” asked Jane Hamilton, author of “The Book of Ruth” and a forthcoming novel, “When Madeline Was Young.” “It sounds absolutely deadly.” Reading books as isolated works is precisely what she wants to do, she said. “When I read someone like Willa Cather, I feel like I’m in the presence of the divine,” Ms. Hamilton said. “I don’t want her mixed up with anybody else. And I certainly don’t want to go to her Web site.”

Yeah, it can mean that. But more likely it might mean that Hamilton’s niece will look to Anna Karenina and think, “Hmm, I wonder how I can do something with that.” And if her trip to Las Vegas somehow mirrored Tolstoy’s story, maybe she’d indulge in a modern retelling of the story. And maybe her revisioning of the story won’t be done in a way that fits the traditional publishing mold.

Possibly the biggest change will be artists — writers — deciding to bypass the machine. If you’ve hung around the publishing industry for any length of time, you know that it’s an elitist game. That’s not a bad thing; only so many books can be published by any given publisher in any given year. There are many factors that go into making publishing decisions, including, yes, commercial prospects. We all want to believe that pure talent will win. And sometimes it does.

We are entering a world where niche markets rule. We are all niche in our own way, and that’s what makes us human. Your work may not appeal to everyone, but your work may appeal to someone. Isn’t that what it’s about? You have something to say, and somehow you connect with someone who responds, “Yes, I feel exactly the same way.”

We all have dreams of becoming bestsellers and striking it rich and sitting next to Oprah (okay, maybe not all of us dream this — it is not a BS dream, but we are rather odd around here). But as we dream, we are working on the thing we love. We are writing. Some of us are pushing our work out to an audience who is receptive (shocking, stunning, and humbling). We are seeing that sometimes financial reward can come in different ways.

For some, it seems they’d rather remain unread if they cannot be read in the perfect circumstances. That is absolutely a fair decision. Each artist must make his or her own choice about their work. Do not fear digitization. Fear oblivion due to lack of access.

[tags]publishing, digital publishing, reading, writing[/tags]

File Under: The Future of Publishing

2 responses so far ↓

  • ann michael // Jun 6, 2006 at 8:51 am

    “only so many books can be published by any given publisher in any given year” – bingo! That’s what has changed – publishers are no longer the gatekeepers (a situation record labels have been dealing with for a while).

    Publishers – as corporate entities – will be successful if they can figure out how to moderate, contribute to, and influence the flow of ideas (writing and information management in all of its forms) rather than trying to control it. The days of control are over!

    Wonderful post – thanks!

  • Diana Hunter // Jun 7, 2006 at 6:12 am

    “…but the truth of the matter is that while the tools are changing, the actual act of creating remains largely untouched. Art builds upon art which builds upon art.”

    Which leads us around the circle to the question, once again, of copyright. Wouldn’t it be just as much a crime if her niece were inspired by Anna Karenina, only to be told, “Sorry…it’s protected under copywrite…no inspiration allowed here! Move along…”?

    Seems a vicious circle the industry seems bent on closing. If they succeed, however, I have faith artists of all types will find alternate ways and traditional publishing will collapse in on itself.