Tag Archives: Post-Gutenberg

The Decentralization of the Post-Gutenberg Age

ebooks, eReading

ebooks, eReading

The Decentralization of the Post-Gutenberg Age

‘E-books make the Gutenberg system, which still characterizes the industry after 500 years, absolutely obsolete,’ insists Jacob Epstein, the veteran publisher who invented trade paperbacks and founded the New York Review of Books.” “E-publishing radically decentralizes the marketplace,” Jacob Epstein.

The decentralizing of  post-Gutenberg publishing is something that I can speak about with intimate knowledge and ties in with my book of poems Into the Ruins and other books. In the mid nineties I became disgusted with the conventional avenues of cultural and literary publishing, both books, journals, and magazines. I had more than a decade of rejection slips from ignoramuses who demonstrated not the slightest understanding or familiarity with the manuscripts I sent them, along with a number from highly respected editors at major publishers, one, for instance, telling me he thought my book The Grove of the Eumenides should receive a hearing but did nothing to make it happen. I came to think very little of nepotism, especially in publishing. Other editors, publishing their post-modern drivel, enjoyed indulging themselves at my expense, they apparently thought. I quite consciously walked away from the whole conventional publishing scene, and the university in 1996, and began seeking ways to go around the stranglehold of both, directly to the reader.

I first thought the way to go around the decadent post-modern establishment and open a new path for literature, seeking to revive and renew its deepest humanistic traditions, was the time-honored route of typical self-publishing and brought out Into the Ruins through the printer McNaughton Gunn in 1999 under my own independent publishing company, Earthrise Press. While I sold some books through Borders and Barnes & Noble, through Baker & Taylor, I found them all to be opposed to an independent voice. A selection from the approximately twenty Reviews from that time are on my website. Despite a few insightful reviews, no one really understood what I was fully attempting with Into the Ruins. Thus far, the same has proven to be the case with The Bower of Nil in 2002 and The Grove of the Eumenides in 2007.

Along the way, I evolved into using POD (Print on Demand) technology through Lightning Source and thought the way around the stultifying post-modern status quo would lie in that direction, which nevertheless opened up the way to the global reach of the Internet booksellers to an amazing degree, shocking me that I could sell books around the world. Very early I recognized the value of Jason Epstein’s Espresso Book Machine, though it’s yet to fulfill its potential.

Along in there, too, ebooks increasingly became a possibility, and I published all of my books into ebooks, available worldwide and going around all of the conventional gatekeepers. The record of much of the evolution of my thinking is in my Publishing in the Post-Gutenberg Age

Like everyone else, I’ve evolved along the way with a website since 1998 and a blog, eventually Web 2.0 social networking… Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Through all that, I continued to study and work towards my epic poem, the earliest notes for which are from 1982, recently finishing the fifth draft in March of 2012. It’s not only the methods of publishing that I’m talking about, but how the identification and promotion of disparate views and visions of life, in literary terms and otherwise, evolve and reach the broader culture. I have not devoted over thirty years of my life writing an epic poem to allow a corrupt, conventional corporate publisher ever to touch it. Everything I’ve written is about the freedom of the individual soul, and the poem must be published in such a way as to affirm it.

Frederick Glaysher

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In the Post-Gutenberg Stacks

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ebooks, eReading

My writing an essay on Rabindranath Tagore, three or four months ago, led to an interesting experience that I find myself continuing to think about. As an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Michigan in the first few years of the 1980s, I would often study in the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. My favorite places were deep in the catacombs of the stacks, 4 South, or the Sixth Floor humanities collection. Since Google digitized the holdings of U of M and those of other major libraries, along with the proliferation of classics online, Amazon and ebooks, and statewide inter-loan services, I, for some time now, have less frequently found myself needing to visit the Library, as I used to, for decades, two or three times a year.

In Tagore’s case, I discovered there were some books and sources I couldn’t obtain by other means, so I took a day last October for the sixty-mile trip to the Hatcher grad library. I started with 4 South, enclosed seemingly in the center of the old library, with very low ceilings, like the cellar of an old monastery. The floor has the bulk of the holdings in religion, especially Islam, Hinduism, and other non-Western faiths. I had on my Android Nexus S phone a list of books and articles related to Tagore and world religions that I wanted to check, complete with call numbers and so forth, from Mirlyn, the library Catalog, which I had accessed online from home. As usual, I was the only person on the floor. One or two might have wandered through that afternoon, cutting across on the way elsewhere. I found the sources in the stacks and piled them up on a desk, about twenty-five books or so.

Before combing through them, I booted my Netbook and turned on the Portable WiFi Hotspot on my phone, so that I could check U of M’s online Catalog, if needed. No reason to run downstairs anymore. I also took out my DocuPen portable wand scanner, so that I wouldn’t have to carry anything downstairs if I wanted to copy an article, which I did with several, emptying the memory, when it became full, onto my Netbook, in PDF format.

Scrutinizing chapters and articles, bibliographies, I found a few things I wanted to pursue further, so I obtained their call numbers with my Netbook, through the Catalog, went back into the stacks, dug around, loved every minute of it. And so it went. Since a few other sources were on the Sixth Floor, which houses mostly literature, having exhausted 4 South for that excursion, I packed up and changed locations, taking about another twenty-five books off the stacks upstairs, from the Tagore holdings of about three hundred books, and burrowed my way through them. I remember being reminded of my time on an NEH summer seminar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1995, and using the Perkins Library at Duke University, especially its excellent collection of Indian literature.

After some time, though, as the afternoon went by, I discovered I was developing a list of books that even the Hatcher Library didn’t have among its several million volumes. I fired up my Netbook again, and, while sitting in a study carrel, logged on to MeLCat, the State of Michigan’s library inter-loan system for the majority of universities, colleges, and local libraries. Working through my list, I found most of the books I needed at other state institutions and ordered them, right then and there, from a shabby old Harland Hatcher carrel, on the Sixth Floor, where over thirty years ago I had enjoyed so many fruitful hours of study.

A couple of books that I particularly wanted were not available at the graduate library nor through MeLCat.  I went online to the HathiTrust Digital Library, found one of them, and added the eBook to my account. The other was on Google Books. I downloaded it and later transferred it to my ereaders.

The MeLCat books began showing up at my local library in Rochester, Michigan, about a week later, when I was ready for them, having read the material I had taken home in digital format. An email notified me when the books were received and available for pick up. I read them in the comfort of my own library.

Frederick Glaysher

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Note on eReading and eBooks

Note on eReading and eBooks.

ebooks, eReading

ebooks, eReading

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.

Frederick Glaysher

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