It is easy to see the Apple antitrust suit as merely a clash between multi-billion-dollar corporations, but at heart the case asks a fundamental societal question: what, legally speaking, is art? Is it a thing, a commodity like a bar of soap or a can of motor oil to be bought and sold in an unfettered free market, or is it something else, deserving of special allowances? If you see a work of art, in this case a book, as a commodity, then there is no question that Judge Cote’s ruling is correct. As a society, we long ago decided that when people sell things, the consumer is best served when the government allows the free market to work its magic on cost control.
Writing is a miraculous technology all its own—a code that, when input through the optic nerve, induces structured, coherent hallucinations. An equivalent experience does not exist. Words have shape and musicality. They almost have a flavor. But they are too easily drowned out by stronger stimuli.
If you’re looking for a weekend #longread, Robert Moor has an interesting article in n+1 on the history of digital and hypertextual literature.
Plus, the article begins with a nice summary of The Late American Novel, a collection of writing on the future of the book edited by our own founding editor, C. Max Magee.
"We are creating a generation of riff artists, who see their job not as creating wholly new original projects but as commenting upon cultural artifacts that already exist."
- The Bathrobe Era: What the Death of Print Newspapers Means for Writers by Michael Bourne
Literature can accommodate nostalgia, but only as a houseguest; if nostalgia becomes the landlord, architect and psychoanalyst, literature will have to evict itself.
As I said, I’m reading War and Peace on my iPhone. But you can’t tell I’m reading War and Peace on my iPhone. When I take my kids to the park and they’re off playing while I’m reading War and Peace, I look like just some fatuous idiot reading his email
Another 100,000 Galleys
This exploration of the stigma of self publishing is really great, if you’re looking for some weekend reading.
The famous Library at Alexandria, at its largest, housed perhaps as many as 500,000 scrolls, or the equivalent of some 25,000 books. A quaint number: ten years ago, we were publishing, in the U.S., around ten times that a year. Now, we publish that many every two and a half days.
Anyone with access to a networked computer can publish a book, or ten, or a hundred. Anyone with 500 bucks can see their book into print, and the novel that once would have lived its entire live in a drawer is now more likely to be downloadable. A manuscript that might never have found a home in the twentieth century, certainly not at a “legitimate” publisher as they were called, can now, with very little effort, be ordered online, printed in a run of one, and mailed to a buyer in a matter of hours. We used to call them vanity presses, the companies that helped people publish books not wanted by the traditional, commercial publishing world; now such companies are more often touted as the new business model.
We plan to run a series of pieces on the evolving book world, from independent solo ventures to micro publishers to small presses to the new mini-majors to the Big Six and the 600-pound gorilla. Getting us started is Joseph Peschel, a freelance journalist from South Dakota. He interviews a wide variety of people who have self-published, some happily, some less so, some unworried by the stigma, some with their hands bloody, some embarrassed, some victorious.
— Tom Lutz
Editors, reviewers, and even many authors believe that if you self-publish, you’re branded a sinner of sorts. You wear a scarlet S-P, signifying that you can’t get published because your work is inferior. If you promote your own work on the Internet, you must sheepishly precede the phrase “self-promotion” with “shameless.” It’s difficult to quantify the extent of the stigma, but we all know that publishing your own work has been frowned upon by writers for decades. Recently, genre authors Amanda Hocking (who writes young adult vampire novels) and John Locke (pulp thrillers) have had so much success independently publishing and selling hundreds of thousands of their own books that you’d think the self-publishing wall would’ve been kicked down and lying in a crumbled mess by now. But the stigma attached to publishing, promoting, and selling your own written word persists. Most writers, like Susan Shapiro, who’s written for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and has conventionally published eight books, including comic novels and nonfiction through St. Martin’s Press and Delacorte, remain convinced that it’s better to get a mainstream publisher. Shapiro, who’s helped hundreds of her students get published, recently told me she would consider self-publishing, but only “if everybody else turned me down.”
No one ever faulted Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Quentin Tarantino, or Charlie Chaplin for writing, directing, and producing their own movies. No one disrespects musicians for distributing their music without a major label behind them. And poets — think of Walt Whitman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the authors of contemporary poetry chapbooks — have long been used to publishing their own work. Why then should independent publishing be regarded any differently? Especially when even established writers, in today’s traditional publication market, can have difficulty getting their publishers and agents behind a book? A slumping economy has pushed already-teetering bookstores into bankruptcy, further squeezed publishers’ profits, and reduced and in some cases eliminated book review space.
Lev Grossman on the codex, inheritable libraries, and how physical books are kinda like wifi.
But here’s the rub: while you can buy an e-book about the movie based on Truman Capote’s book, you can’t buy an e-book of the work itself. Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is not yet available in an e-book edition.
Carolyn Kellogg on the cultural preoccupation with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the strange role of publishing rights in an increasingly digital world.
Source: Los Angeles Times