October 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
Before you can bitch and complain about eBooks, you have to actually have purchased a book in the 21st Century and read it. Experience has taught me that most people yearning for the smell and feel of old musty volumes, haven’t read an old musty volume or an new, binding breaking volume in a very long time.
My biggest beef with most of the discussion about the Kindle is that it usually comes from people who don’t buy books. Can you name the last 7 books you bought? The last 20? Here is my October list (20 days). Unless otherwise noted, I bought them all on Amazon.
1. Dead Man’s Cell Phone Sarah Ruhl
2. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Mark Vonnegut
3. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Wells Tower
4. Why Theology Can’t Save Us John Gustav-Wrathall
5. The Proviso Moriah Jovan
6. Sons of the Fathers Paul Toscano
7. Out of the Mount Various Authors
8. TDTM JulieAnn Carter Winward
9. A Scattered Life Karen McQuestion
10. Reading Lolita in Tehran Azar Nafisi
11. Nemesis Philip Roth
12. The Great House Nicole Krause audible.com
13. At Home Bill Bryson audible.com
14. House of Meetings Martin Amis audible.com
15. Where Good Ideas Come From Steve Johnson emusic.com
16. Breakthrough Dental Marketing Joel Harris moxzee.com
17. The Moral Landscape Sam Harris
18. Republic of Debtors Bruce Mann
19. Sister Wife Natalie Collins
20. The Fourth World Natalie Collins
When you buy that many books in a month and only spend around $100, your printed words that you possess are thriving, not dying.
I have them all with me now (along with 400 other books), not to mention the complete works of Dostoyevsky, Dickens and Austen — and I have five different tools to read or listen to them on (Kindle, iPad, Laptop, cell phone and iPod).
Do yourself a favor and get off the Luddite Express going nowhere and actually read something. Oh and while I was writing this post, I bought The Sayings of Confucius.
October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’m moving my physical library. I’m at 30 boxes and not even half done. I’ve read countless articles on digital books and I love my 350+ digital library that is with me all the time, but I’ve never once read anything about whether an important metaphor will be lost with the digital flood.
Words are so heavy.
Words overwhelm me, press down on me. I pick up a box of books and the muscles strain and my breathing quickens. I hold in my arms the lives of people — authors, actors, translators, editors, typesetters, booksellers. Their words are heavy.
Dust has accumulated on the shelf were they sat. No book burning ash, but they have returned to dust. I could start reading my library today and if I did nothing else, I would be dust before I finished.
Tomes are tombs where we bury our dead. And the tombs are made of heavy granite.
October 18, 2010 § 1 Comment
Now everyone has ink by the barrel, the power will go to those who can hold our attention.
The changes in publishing are exciting, but how do you get past the narcissism of an audience of one? The CEO of Border’s stated, ” “Everyone has a story to tell, pictures to share or advice to give.” Yes, we want to hear other people’s stories, but even more so, we want our story heard, often to the exclusion of everyone else. The paradox is we want connectivity and individuality.
Facebook quickly turns into numbing sameness. Everyone may have pictures to share and advice to give — and most of it is bad or mediocre at best.
Places like Borders, Amazon, B&N, Apple that allow us to self-publish are cashing in on our narcissism — post your stuff for people to buy. Maybe only 3 people will buy it, but hey, that is OK, because we publish everyone and 3 times everyone is a lot of money for us. This is vanity publishing exploded into tiny little profitable bits.
I am in the race, but not the publish everything race. I’m in the filter race. Even the filter world will be fractioned, but the filter pie is the pie I want to eat — not the crumbs of self-publishing.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Traditional publishing is restrictive. The restriction comes from economic constraints on the publisher. Publishing has always been a few hits to lots of misses and the only way to eliminate the economic risk was an extreme conservative approach. Yes, many authors are feeling the liberation of not having to answer to those conservative publishing enclaves, but economics still govern.
The problem isn’t being “branded” as a self published author, but rather the author never gets a brand. JA Konrath has a brand, “the self-publish” brand, which he has been cultivating for a couple of years quite successfully. This is why his books sell. Everyone knows who he is, even people who don’t read his type of books.
Somewhere there is a happy in-between, a sweet spot where the author has freedom, the publisher allows it and readers get what they want and a lot of books get sold as everyone plays off each other’s strengths and needs. I think that is the future and that the self-publishing pendulum will swing back until it is resting somewhere in the middle — which is good news for the middleman.
October 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
What makes a book last?
To play off the old real estate adage — content, content, content.
I can’t even keep up with the stuff I write, let alone anyone else, and I read — a lot. As a publisher, I hope I can direct my readers to the types of content they desire. Desired content is as varied as humanity, so directing the reader to what they may be interested in feels like an overwhelming task.
I feel the tension as I’ve begun the publishing company in a whole new way. Immediate gratification seems to drive the human compulsion to buy. And motivating the compulsion to buy is what a business is all about. Content, however, is what gives the book legs. A great book is not like a great feast. A great book can sit on the shelf for decades and it will still be a great book. A great feast can sit on the table for about four hours before it starts to go bad. The battle between immediacy and longevity is just one paradox the writer and the publisher must face, but it is a biggie.
As a publisher, I hope I can provide great books and great feasts.
October 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
Authors and writers are finding themselves in a similar position to musicians, except that is hard to go on tour and play to large crowds. The entire blog tour idea is somewhat analogous, but no T-shirts and beer.
I’m not so sure how it will all work out either. It is a great time to be a reader is a little bit like saying it is a great time to be swimmer during a flood. I’m not sure what the landscape is going to look like after the flood, but everybody needs to be finding an ark.
I think the easiest way around the pandering of self-promotion is a straightforward, outright declaration of what your self-interest is. I just got finished reading Christopher Hitchen’s memoir and his friendship and relationship with Martin Amis and Salaman Rushdie didn’t stop him from commenting fully on those authors or praising their work.
Taste is taste. If you like someone’s taste, odds are someone with similar taste will like yours too. Think staff recommendations at the indie book stores. It won’t matter if it is a book written by them or a friend or relative. Influence comes from the reader’s taste and finding other reader’s with similar taste. Think of it as the log you grab as the Titanics of publishing sink.