Thursday, April 23, 2009

throw it at the wall, see what sticks

I have deliberately avoided reading about the publishing industry for about three years now. I can't take it. I can't go into bookstores without degenerating to sputtering incoherency about the dreck cluttering the shelves.

Now, here, is Jonathan Karp at Publisher's Weekly addressing this very issue:

For all of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the publishing industry—from the poor economy to the painful layoffs and restructurings in the wake of the digital transformation—to understand what's really hurting us, all you have to do is visit your neighborhood bookstore.
On sale now: A History of Cannibalism. Illustrated! A gift book! The subtitle is stupendously, kaleidoscopically all-encompassing: From Ancient Cultures to Survival Stories and Modern Psychopaths.
The best-packaged sex book portrayed a scantily clad woman perched on a saddle—Ride 'Em Cowgirl: Sex Position Secrets for Better Bucking. The most unusual was Vibrators, featuring 100 of the best devices in the world, all artily photographed. I had assumed this was published by some outrĂ© left coast indie house, but when I looked on the spine, I found the HarperCollins logo. My wish for this book is that Oprah will name it one of her favorite things, and NewsCorp will be compelled to print illustrations of vibrators in its next annual report.
We are acquiring and publishing too many books. We buy them opportunistically, and at times thoughtlessly. We edit and launch them too quickly. We market them carelessly and ephemerally. Too often, we abdicate our responsibility to be filters, guides, guardians and gatekeepers. And now, as in many other industries, we are suffering the effects.

Ay-men, brother.

This is precisely why I can't bring myself to write, much less submit and publish, any more. I cannot submit myself to the dumbing-down of the publishing industry in the hopes of catching the next wave, the next quirk, the next Tweet. (BTW--I read about #agentfail on Twitter. I hate Twitter. I will have nothing to do with Twitter. Don't ask. I won't. It seems to me Twitter is a microcosm [wordplay intended] of everything that is wrong with American culture.)

I won't play. And I'm not coming around where the other kids are playing, either. It makes me hostile.


AJ Milne said...

Yeah. This. I think.

I'd write more, but I was told I hadda fit it into 140 words or less...

(Okay, actually it's more because it's in the Thoughts Still Forming queue. later Earth-shattering insights may be forthcoming as processor time permits.)

AJ Milne said...

Still working on the deep thoughts... So far all I've got is that I find it surprisingly difficult to be sufficiently sarcastic to satisify my need for the same in 140 characters or less.

So clearly this is a non-starter. For me, at least.