Monthly Archives: April 2010

  •    Quarter stories is a writing project where people are paid 25 cents to write a story about a photograph. Pretty cool stuff. (via) #
  •    The New Real 2 is MCM’s second #3D1D livewriting event. Follow him as he writes a complete novel in 3 days, on The Dispatch. #
  •    James Bridle on Volcano Fiction:
    I could, charmlessly and redundantly, expand on that to say: when life surprises us, making the everyday strange and wonderful, our first impulse is to make stories. These are of course personal stories: the volcano itself is too remote, too vast, to fit into our little narratives. Like Vonnegut’s glaciers, they just exist: human lives happen around them.
    Also worth a look: Robin Sloan’s Ash Cloud Tales. #
  •    “You will outlive the bastards.” (Alternatively: do not burn yourselves out.) #
  •    99 year old lady becomes an iPad user – and writes poetry.
    “Those are free books? Free …? Oh my, that’s just fantastic!”
    Wait for her limerick at the end. I loved it. (via) #
  •    A magazine for the stranded.
    This is an open call to designers, writers, photographers, illustrators, art directors and anyone else who is stranded by the ash cloud, and would like something to do. If there’s one thing my ol’ ma taught me, it’s that when life gives you volcanoes, make magazines. And so we shall.
    They’re publishing via MagCloud and/or the Newspaper Club. (via) #
  •    New York’s public library now sorts books via scanner:
    On one side of the machine, which is two-thirds the length of a football field and encircled by a conveyor belt, staff members place each book face-down on a separate panel of the belt. The book passes under a laser scanner, which reads the bar code on the back cover, and the sorter communicates with the library’s central computer system to determine where the book should be headed. Then, as the conveyor belt moves along, it drops the book into one of 132 bins, each associated with a branch library. It’s sort of like a baggage carousel that knows which bag is yours and deposits it at your feet.
    My inner geek is giddy with excitement. #
  •    The Jew’s Daughter is non-linear fiction done right. Beautiful, experimental stuff; sadly – requires flash to run. #

To Change Publishing, Make Publishers Obsolete

Publishers will die if they cannot change, but it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in change anytime soon. Why?

There’s an enlightening quote in the New Yorker article published yesterday, where Madeline McIntosh of Random House says:

“I think we, as an industry, do a lot of talking,” she said of publishers. “We expect to have open dialogue. It’s a culture of lunches. Amazon doesn’t play in that culture.” It has “an incredible discipline of answering questions by looking at the math, looking at the numbers, looking at the data. . . . That’s a pretty big culture clash with the word-and-persuasion-driven lunch culture, the author-oriented culture.”

More tellingly – Markus Dohle, the chairman and CEO of Random House, thinks “the digital transition will take five to seven years“. He believes that the argument over the iBookstore is rushed, and unneeded; accordingly, Random House is the only one of the ‘big-six’ publishers who has not signed up with the iBookstore.

The problem with publishing today seems to be that there’s not enough impetus for publishers to change. And this is rather perplexing. The way forward for publishing appears to be clear, if people like MCM and Mark Barrett and Michael Stackpole are to be believed. Go online, stay digital, jettison your legacy printing systems, and build good digital filters for popular content. More importantly: create publishing brands readers can identify with – the same way readers now cluster around authors as brand names.

But this has yet to happen. Despite all this common-sense advice, despite the many publishing roundtables and conferences that have happened recently, publishers appear to be more interested in squabbling over eBook prices than in investing for long-term change. I’ve waited four years for some of these changes to happen, and none have yet materialized. In the meantime – articles like the ones I’ve linked to above have begun appearing at increasing frequencies. Why has the publishing industry failed to act? What has gone wrong? Can no publisher see what these writers currently do?

It occurred to me recently that the problem may be deeper than just these surface recommendations. Suppose publishers are institutionally incapable of changing? All these articles by well-meaning, far-seeing writers would be of little use, because they do not address a deeper, more fundamental problem: that publishers simply cannot change, and will remain the way they are until they die, or something bigger comes their way. Are there reasons for this? I believe there are. But the answers to these questions – and what to do about them – aren’t particularly comfortable ones to answer.