You hear it all the time: I like a book. I like to feel that paper in my hands. Great, I always say. There is no other answer. It’s what they say they like and I believe them.
Then there are people in and around the trade publishing world that say weird things about content all the time: like there isn’t a bear eating their drapes. They say things like “I’m writing the flap copy in my head now!” or “I’m writing a book about Silicon Valley but they don’t want to talk to me until I say I have a deal with a traditional publisher.” Whaaaa……? Did you just climb out of the crater in Roswell? Some of the coolest publishing on Earth comes out of Silicon Valley, the great disrupters of the Universe.
Within 2 -3 years, most reading will be done on a cellphone. It’s coming, it’s happening, it’s the next logical step. Everything will be on the cell or the home computer. People won’t carry an iPad and iPhone or Galaxy and Kindle or whatever combo they cary. They will want just one thing to carry and just one thing that is possible to lose. And if you don’t believe me, WHY DO YOU THINK AMAZON PUT OUT A CELLPHONE?
I’d like to read on the Glass, but I can’t afford it. A wristwatch might be fun if someone gave me special wizard glasses with long thick lenses. Hmmmmm… business idea? I just don’t know. But all of it is blowing wide open and to think otherwise is to see UFOs in the skies over Cleveland.
So, the Man Booker Prize has a crowd-funded, crowd-chosen finalist in this year’s prize. The setting is the UK in 1041. But oh, did it rock the house. Even Jennifer Lopez voted for it.
What happens when rarefied, highly educated, highly prejudiced, highly self-involved gatekeepers give way to the maddening crowd? We are about to see. But I do know this: the Man Booker Prize is helping, along with amazon and other institutions that use electricity to make and distribute books, in making the world a more interesting place.
No, I’m not going to read about muddy England in the 2nd Century. But damn, I’m glad that I CAN if I WANT to. IF I WANT TO, I can put on a deeply cut jumpsuit – just like J Lo – and spend days lost in the world of 1041 England.
Thanks to the crowd, our histories live.
I was really really pissed when Colbert got into the Amazon/Hachette squabble. I call it that because of the childishness of it all.
Colbert is a really funny man who probably doesn’t know squat about the ins and outs of book publishing. How could he? His calls go directly to voice mail. But someone got through to him and convinced him to denigrate Amazon.com on the air. TV sets in Seattle clicked off by the dozens. The dispute grew personal. Authors were now involved.
And Hachette had used Stephen Colbert as a human shield!
All of this is a shame. Colbert is to be protected, not drawn into the fray. He’s the TALENT, the thing you need to keep doing what you are doing: publishing books. You also have a contract with him, further proof you like and admire his work. So why have him trash Amazon and the most important relationship of his publishing life?
Copyright law was invented and pushed forward by WRITERS. Pamphlets, newspapers, penny dreadfuls, and later books were published by writers. Often, you wrote it in one room and walked to your printer in the front room, JUST LIKE NOW.
For 300 years, the work of publishing slowly migrated from the hands of writers. We got interested in other things, liked the big advance, wandered off to look at butterflies. Who knows. But the writers are back and they have Amazon behind them.
Doers once again will reap a fairer share of rewards for doing. That is what Amazon offers. Sure, things will have to shift and change: They always do. But returning publishing to the abilities and talent of writers is the best idea I’ve heard since Samuel Johnson. Yup, I’m that old.
In the meantime, don’t use Stephen Colbert – or any writer for that matter – as a human shield. We need him here, being funny.