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.
New York City (July 16, 2014) —The self-publishing industry has grown exponentially in the last six years, increasing over 400 percent since 2007 and over 50 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a recent Bowker analysis. Yet authors who choose this route are often on their own in editing, designing, and finishing books to the high standards demanded by today’s readers.
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I didn’t expect Ruth. Odds are, if her son had not been a now-famous doctor I met when he was not famous, I would not have Ruth. I certainly wouldn’t have her if I still worked for a trade publishing house. Nobody would publish Ruth: She’s 85. But I do not work for a trade publishing house and that’s where the beauty lies: I can publish Ruth and I can do it brilliantly.
In all this blah blah blah about amazon, that company made Ruth possible. That company became such a brilliant retailer that heads spin, no one can keep up, and everyone gets angry. So, whats the big deal? Try to keep up as best you can.
Like the mongoose in Hawaii, amazon has no predators. But it will. It’s nature’s way. Right now, good heads are at work. Incursions will come. It’s capitalism, baby, so don’t whine out of both sides of your mouth, book publishing. No one owes you a living. Innovate.
But I don’t care about them. I care about Ruth’s story: She’s a wife, mother, teacher, high school principal, community volunteer and smuggler. It’s 1953 and she is in Berlin, smuggling for the “people of the forest” – Jews that survived the concentration camps. They survived because they were young, strong. They ate bark off the trees, stole goods when they could, did anything they had to do to stay alive. They came to the edge of the trees to meet the car, standing around in ragged clothes. Her husband Saul is a philanderer. They run dangerous missions across borders for the forest Jews in a hollowed out Mercedes. They never get caught. This is non-fiction.
I look up from the manuscript and can’t believe it. Characters have left the room and Ruth’s voice isn’t in my head, matter-of-factly telling me what she learned about human beings by running gold over International borders after the Holocaust. She is Jewish and “wanted to do what she could.”
I can’t believe we almost lost this story and that’s the miracle: Companies such as amazon have given countless people a place to tell stories that never ever would have seen the light of day – and that matters. A whole bunch.
Viva amazon. I say. And I can’t wait for that drone to deliver my stuff in 30 minutes.