Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading the tea leaves--

Here's a second post for Wednesday, this time of clips and links to thoughts related to changes in the book world--if you have thoughts of your own in response, please leave them in the comments! And please don't forget to drop by, where a new author is featured.


Tina Brown: You said in an interview that you don’t think novels are going to be read 25 years from now. Were you being provocative or do you believe that to be true?

Philip Roth: I was being optimistic about 25 years really. No, I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people—maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range.

Tina Brown: Is there anything you think that novelists can do about that or do you think that it’s just that the narrative form is going to die out? It’s just the length of them or what? Is that what’s dictating you writing shorter books now?

Philip Roth: It’s the print. That’s the problem. It’s the book. It’s the object itself. To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. If you read a novel in more than two weeks, you don’t read the novel really. So I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by. It’s hard to find huge numbers of people, or large numbers of people or significant numbers of people who have those qualities.


Successful writers understand the marketplace they are working within, and they understand that digital copying and file-sharing, like all disruptive changes wrought by technology, create as many opportunities as problems. The digital economy operates on the model of the long tail, and copying is part of how a book or any digital creation moves up the tail. Copying and file-sharing are the internet's word of mouth – and as all good booksellers know, it's word of mouth that really sells books.

It's at the confluence of file-sharing and self-publishing that a new kind of "artisan author" is emerging. In his guide to self-publishing, Guy Kawasaki with co-author Shawn Welch coins the term APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Kawasaki argues that by fulfilling all three roles, writers open tremendous new creative opportunities for their work that major publishers are too slow and cumbersome to meet.


On his webpage, the Left Room, Steve Mosby argues that Doctorow's status as a pioneer in the field means there is no way any subsequent author can hope to have the same impact, especially as so many people are now giving their work away. Over at Tor, Niall Alexander roundly agrees with Damien but feels the piece overlooked the plight of mid-list authors. Bob Lock at Amazing Stories has a different response: that for authors who don't make a living from their work, piracy is a way of putting their name out into the world, at least while building their career. Clearly, the issue is complex and sensitive. For me, the piece overlooks a third approach: Creative Commons licensing.

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Meeting me elsewhere: excerpts from 2012 books (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, Thaliad, The Foliate Head) at ScribdThaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. See page tabs above for more on those brand new books, The Throne of Psyche from 2011, and others.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.