Note on eReading and eBooks.
Almost all of the books and articles mentioned in my essay on Tolstoy, and many unmentioned, were read in ePub and PDF editions from Google Books or elsewhere online. I was often struck by the fact that I could obtain obscure works on Tolstoy that few libraries even have copies of today, including excellent early biographies, such as Alymer Maud’s two volume work, and many other books and translations. With the click of the mouse, I found myself reading some pieces that I haven’t read in thirty-five years, previously available only through a university library. It’s shocking that there are still some people who seem to think that’s not good for literature and culture . They seriously lag behind in understanding the Post-Gutenberg Age.
Original publication in ebooks will only assure that every book may very well become a lasting part of the intellectual and cultural heritage of humanity, or at least never go out of print.
Corporate and putatively literary publishing do not constitute some kind of privileged system or means for identifying and promoting the “best” writers; in fact, they are self-serving, commercial enterprises that shore up both the nihilistic vision of life that has become endemic during the last 150 years and the monetary bottom-lines based on such received wisdom.
Little beyond the most predictable, secular, despairing visions of life that have made up the cliched canned goods of modernity can be found coming from most of the publishing industry today.
I stopped looking to them, and the so-called literary magazines, for anything worthwhile in the early 1990s, went into my study, and closed the door. I believe it’s the best thing I could ever have done.
I would argue that the publishing industry intentionally cultivates the notion that they alone are NOT self-interested, a complete falsehood, especially when one realizes they’re taking 88% or more of the profit from the sale of a book! They have no special right to it. Only writers who are gullible fools would give it to them in this age when it is now so easy for authors to reach readers directly by themselves.
It’s not merely a matter of money for writers. It’s also about the freedom of ideas and communication, censorship, who receives a hearing and who doesn’t, the free exchange of ideas. The gatekeepers imagine they know who and what and how society should be influenced and shaped, but, in reality, the cynical, decadent publishing industry, along with the university, has destroyed culture, literature, and poetry, marginalized it by driving it ever further from life, into the pathetic games of deconstruction, “language,” and so on.
One part of the Post-Gutenberg Age is that it has provided the technological means to reach, develop, cultivate an entirely new stage of human civilization, purpose, and meaning. The pathetic executives of publishing corporations aren’t even remotely interested in exploring anything substantively challenging to the received bottom-line they inherited… figuratively and literally.
The real shift in culture I’m arguing for isn’t about me. It’s about life outside my head… that is what would constitute an aesthetic revolution today. The Internet, eBooks, and social networks make that a distinct possibility.
Here is what every writer on the planet can now do for under a hundred dollars: https://books.fglaysher.com
The publishing industry has been downhill for decades. Jason Epstein is an enlightening source in that regard. eBooks already constitute, by objective industry account, 5 to 8% of all book sales. Within a few years, at present growth, it will be over 50% of ALL BOOKS SOLD. The “big publishers” will only have left about 25% of printed book sales, so “big” isn’t a word they’re going to be hanging on to.
Many publishers are delusional about the value they bring to the art. Nada… The self-serving justifications of the NY publishers and their ilk are pathetic and laughable. They should be worrying about ebooks because they indeed do spell “the end” for many of them.
Faber, Carcanet, New Directions, et al… Add in all of the major magazines and journals… Every one of them dedicated to a small, narrow, exhausted vision of life and poetry… All they guarantee is that there will be NOTHING unexpected in their pages. That’s a major part of the reason why the art and the academy have lost the community. They’re no different from the community… The arguments defending publishers are all the usual, tiresome ones, cliches. Speaking about them as ideas, they’re weak ideas in the extreme. It’s painful letting go of icons that become senile and sully themselves…
Banding together into coteries is ALWAYS a sign in literary history of exhaustion, imaginative, spiritual, literary exhauuuussstion… That’s what much of the problem is with the art. eBooks and eReading offer a way to go around the decadent and worthless way in which the art has been manipulated and controlled for decades, often by publishers and the self-appointed cliques. It’s a tremendously exciting sign of HOPE for the future.
A book or poem is something other than the way it is printed, cuneiform tablet, papyrus, vellum, etc. Poetry and writing are ideas, consciousness codified, constituting the true Platonic Book.
Codex or scroll, poets today can have either… It’s merely a matter of *coding.* Aren’t there already remedial html workshops for poets springing up all over the country? Now there’s an idea that probably somebody could definitely cash in on…
The middlemen have changed, as have the incentives that drive them. Many are, and have clearly been, catering to transferring the vanity press business to POD and ebooks. Others are seriously OPEN to new relationships with writers… So, publishing, ePublishing and otherwise, has become a complex picture, as life is, but has definitely emerged into a Post-Gutenberg Age… leaving many behind.
Every age has its Luddities. There are plenty of eLuddites about, moaning and groaning, while time passes them by. I believe many writers of the past would have welcomed the sheer opportunity and excitement of ebooks and seized the day…
Any writer or poet can now SURF across the lake and sell his or her books in the UK and almost anywhere else on the planet. Kobo Books
Any writer who can use a word processor ought to be able to create an ePub ebook, all of which will only become easier and easier…. Poets hawked their broadsides in the streets of London… There isn’t any reason why they shouldn’t on the information highway…
Poets need to get their heads out of the electronic sand on ebooks… before the entire younger generation is lost to the art.
Further reflections on epublishing at Post-Gutenberg Publishing.