By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From November 1, 2012
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays at the invitation of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
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Seeking Sanctuary: Merging and Emerging
It’s been a hell of a week.
Team Library, post-Sandy: NYC office closed, company email access down. Personal email + Google Drive + telephone FTW!
— Guy L. Gonzalez (@glecharles) October 31, 2012
From the golden-glowing camaraderie of San Francisco’s Books in Browsers conference…to the cold water crassness of corporate consolidation…and the ice-bucket drenching of a renegade hurricane.
It just doesn’t get much more Monday than Monday.
Special commendations to many the people of the business trying valiantly to keep things from unraveling — Jeremy Greenfield holed up on an ancient Mac at a friend’s place to get a note out to DBW operatives, and Bowker’s Laura Dawson rigging up an extension cord to a neighbor to try to power an online connection from her dark house.
Stuck. Can't decide whether to dress up like a penguin or Bennett Cerf.
— Peter Turner (@PeterTurner) October 31, 2012
With the Northeast brought to a standstill like this, it might have been a chance for everybody to at last get some reading (or knitting) done. Only the lights went out.
And how curious that the same thing had happened at the conference in California, much smaller scale, just as dark. Just ask Dawson.
Okay, some form of civilization: @viapace lit a fire in, & our 1 extension line into neighbor's is giving us wifi & tv. Red wine & nuts.
— Laura Not Linda (@ljndawson) October 31, 2012
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The new publishing doesn’t care about formats, it cares about story-telling. It is neutral about content-types, because all content-types can be manipulated on the web. That may seem prosaic, but it is actually revolutionary.
That’s a statement straight from Peter Brantley’s good heart. This is the upbeat spirit, the cheer with which he recognizes and welcomes “the new publishing.” I’m glad to have met him at the conference he’s writing about for Publishers Weekly in Books in Browsers 2012: A Publishing Industry Rushing into the Future.
Brantley sees an ever-rising barometric pressure the rest of us could miss so easily. He’s not only a tireless advocate for our libraries-in-the-wilderness but also the organizer of Books in Browsers (#BiB12). He is superbly backed and supported by Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert of O’Reilly Media — their Tools of Change Conference is set for February 12-14 in New York, and Meyer has a preview, What to expect at TOC NY 2013.
The invitational Books in Browsers — as you may have guessed from our tweet-storm — was held October 25 and 26 in San Francisco. We all found sanctuary in the Great Hall of the Internet Archive’s own Fezziwig, Brewster Kahle.
The power suddenly went out on Thursday evening, in perfectly good Californian weather, as Kahle led a congregation of his supporters in a celebration of the Archive’s achievement of 10 petabytes of data.
Ten petabytes: 10,000,000,000,000,000.
Big data. In the former Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist.
But the power did go out. And it stayed out until we’d decamped the archive that evening.
I went into the Great Hall early to set up my stuff for live-tweeting each morning, and heard the sound the Archive’s servers make in there. Worthy of a ship in space, an incipient hum pitched precisely into the future. To hear it is to feel that a shoe is making the drop.
Of course, that future was moving fast. Pearson and Random House were about to execute their fateful hug. And the real power outage was churning its way in from the Atlantic.
Brantley would write:
It was the goosebump-and chills-moment you get when you realized that you were watching insanely smart, thoughtful and creative people reinventing publishing right in front of your eyes, hacking together fledgling applications of great beauty and breathtaking promise.
Brantley is talking here about two of several very well-received demos/presentations, we all loved them, on the conference’s second day.
A “self-publishing book” from Liza Daly and Keith Fahlgren of conference sponsor Safari was “written” as we watched, Daly’s voice recorded as text while onlookers could add their commentary in real time.
In another, Poetica.com, Maureen Evans and Blaine Cook made a soulful appeal for a culture in which “everyone edits.” As Brantley describes it, “an online multi-user copyediting tool with a beautiful user interface and intuitive operation, befitting a startup that unites the original developer of Twitter and creator of OAuth, with a poet who has innovated in the application of social media to writing.”
There were many more buoyant moments, from Laura Dawson’s faithful calls for networked books to Pablo Defendini’s clever conceit of illustrated ebooks on huge screens.
And there was Kevin Franco’s update on the progress of his Enthrill Books in-store ebook program (we Etherized it here), Hugh McGuire’s web-books explication of discoverability (also Etherized), Kate Pullinger’s tales of “digital fiction” (we call this “transmedia”),and Liz Castro’s walk-through of her development of “modular books” (and a delightful cab ride with her through San Francisco).
Kassia Krozser arrived with an authoritative list of what readers want, including:
With Brantley and many others embracing cool glimpses of literature thriving on the web, I want to be sure we also note and thank those who recently have helped us feel a chill we need to acknowledge.
The conversation has begun getting a bit darker. Hopes for turnarounds in corner offices are fading. And with the Penguin Random House news just ahead of the storm on Monday, a grimmer reality than we might have chosen seems to be settling into place.
To borrow from Peter Collingridge in his presentation at BiB, I think we’ve reached what certain Californians enjoy calling these days a pivot.
Click to read this week’s full Writing on the Ether column at JaneFriedman.com.
I am tweeting from the London Underground. Feel the power of its wifi. #blackmagic
— Sam Missingham (@samatlounge) October 31, 2012