Monday, January 26, 2009

New Publishing

In an article in Time, Lev Grossman is predicting the evolution of the novel into "something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever." Grossman describes the publishing industry as "a financial coelancanth that dates back to the Depression" and predicts dramatic increases in digital publishing and self-publishing. "If Old Publishing is [] a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds."

1 comment:

rjnagle said...

Here's the problem I have with this article.

Lev Grossman is overall a good critic, and I like his reviews. (btw, I picked up his novel Codex at a second hand bookstore recently).

But the self-publishing revolution pretty much took over publishing 10 years ago. Grossman is way behind the curve.

Also, the best way that Grossman can acknowledge this publishing revolution is actually to review titles by small publishers and self-publishers. But Grossman doesn't do that. Instead he focuses on mainstream titles by mainstream publishers (many of which have relationships with Time-Warner).

I recognize that writing for a general interest national news magazine imposes constraints. But Time's Richard Schickel has no problem reviewing an off-the-wall movie review once in a while. And bloggers have a lot more freedom over what they review. The problem with indie publishing is that no one is around to advocate them, and literary reviewers don't have time to wade through the muck. (I say "muck" even though I consider the median quality of self-published titles overall to be higher than it has ever been).

Also, it's highly relevant to mention that Time-Warner has an abyssmal record about supporting fan fiction and fair use. I should know. A few years ago I tried to put a collection of short stories online which were loosely based on a Lionsgate/Time-Warner/ movie. It was a noncommercial project and a respectful homage, yet Time-Warner sent me a preemptive notice forbidding me from putting it online.

It's one thing to say that indie publishing will foster intertextuality and creative borrowing. It's another thing to say it for a publication that promotes its media properties everywhere endlessly and then tries to stifle fair use in cases where the law goes against them.