Publishing & E-Publishing

Barnes & Noble recently released the Nook — its new e-reader — as a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle. The folks at Wired are pretty excited about it and its shiny new features, which you can read all about in their review. I’m one of those cranky young men who will never be caught dead with an e-reader so long as I live (and have the option of dead tree). My opposition to them is mostly personal — I enjoy the sensual experience of holding a physical book, turning its pages, feeling the grain of the paper, scribbling notes in the margins, underlining here and there. For the books I love best (or which came with a paper assignment), you can trace the dialogue I had with the author, characters, and/or ideas through those marginalia and exclamations of approval or puzzlement. I like having a desk cluttered with books in various states of completion. I love having bookshelves stocked with color and inviting leisurely perusal. For me, an e-book is anathema to the experience of reading, which encompasses far more than the text.

Which is not to say that I think e-readers are the end of the world. I think it’s likely that e-literature (or whatever you want to call it) is going to become much more popular, but I highly doubt that it will eliminate the dead tree model. E-readers and bookstores will probably end up in some sort of uneasy coexistence. I just think it’s too early (as a book “traditionalist”) to freak out about the end of print, just as it’s too early for the futurists (for lack of a better term) to gloat about the inevitablity of virtual print.

I bring this up in response to a really thoughtful and fascinating post by Two Dollar Radio’s publisher Eric Obenauf over at The Rumpus about the difference between the two models. As good as Obenauf’s essay is, the comment section opens up a wide-ranging discussion about the role of the artist in contemporary society, the monetary value of art versus its personal and aesthetic value, and what the future of publishing will signify for writers’ art and wallets. Stephen Elliott, Brian Spears, Andrew Altschul and other writers and Rumpus editors join the fray. Definitely worth a full read!

~ by Benji on October 28, 2009.

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