As a quick follow up to my post last week, “The End of Paper Media“, I wanted to share an article that Stan Hummel recommended to me called “With Apple’s Novel Acquisition, A Chance To Reinvent The Book“, by Danny Crichton. Crichton suggests that in a digital world, we might see a return to an era of serialized fiction, and I’m quite intrigued by the idea.
I suggested last week that the publishing industry as we know it today isn’t quite the long entrenched tradition we might think it is. Much in the way that people bemoan the fall of the music recording industry, when we bemoan the fall of the publishing industry, we’re not mourning something original and essential to the production of art, but something rather recent. We don’t need to look too far back in our history to see that the wide availability of books for purchase is a new development. Traditionally, not everyone got their writing published in the “traditional” way, because there simply wasn’t a market for them. Chaucer recited his poetry to the Court, including revised versions of stories written by others. Rousseau earned himself fame by winning an essay contest. Dickens wrote in serialized segments.
It might be pretty cool to return to these methods of publishing, much as musicians have returned to a dependence on tours and patronage for funding through Kickstarter and Patreon. Writers (and many others, of course) use these services also, but there’s still some ground left to cover in developing these as solid platforms for writers, and I’m not sure how financially feasible it is to try and “do a Dickens” – that is, publish in segments over time. I think it would be fun to see my Pirate Poem meted out in segments, with little cliff hangers and episodes, but I’d have to think it through.
Perhaps something like Booklamp (the product Apple acquires in the linked article) is the answer to this particular conundrum. I’m optimistic that someone will figure this out, even if I cannot.
And as a reminder that we’re not the first to wring our hands in earnest consternation over what technology will do to art and communication, The Atlantic has a great piece on the initial reception of the telegraph. Check out “In 1858, People Said the Telegraph Was ‘Too Fast for the Truth’“, by Adrienne Lafrance.