By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From Saturday, February 23, 2013
Part of my series of columns on publishing at Writer Unboxed.
Writers are still writing; readers are still reading; we see Blackfriars as enriching our literary publishing and making the relationship between reader, writer and publisher one of real collaboration.
— Ursula Doyle, co-founder, Blackfriars
What Digital Disruption Does to Us
Here in the industry! the industry! there is a subtler side to things than we usually like to admit.
The digital dynamic favors entertainment over art. In every industry it affects, it promotes feel-good hokum. Not difficult drama. Sit-back-and-relax “very funny” crap. Not important documentary. Short things over long things. Shallow things over deep.
The book business faces a hollowing out of its culture.
–Philip Jones, The Bookseller
Why? Because when we say “digital,” we’re talking about distribution.
What can be digitized can be distributed farther, faster, more cheaply, less discriminately. What once was viewable only on big screens in cinemas with popcorn and greasy floors now can be watched on your phone, right? It has been digitally distributed to you. And I’ll bet that film you’re watching isn’t Lawrence of Arabia, is it?
The digital dynamic electrifies the gutter. The main thing it changes is how much (of anything) can be pumped into society, more quickly, more easily, and by fewer workers than before.
And so once the Angel of the Digital Death has passed over your home and left your family huddled around the television, confused and cold—but online!—what’s missing? The good stuff.
I’ll give you a brief respite from the book world. Let’s look at television for three examples.
- The Bravo cable network “was the first television service dedicated to film and the performing arts when it launched in December 1980,” according to its site. It now produces what it terms “the best in food, fashion, beauty, design and pop culture.” Such as The Real Housewives of...
- The Arts & Entertainment Network began in the 1980s, too, and with a similarly serious mission. Today, it dares not speak its original name. Since the 1990s, it has been simply and officially “A&E.” A few years ago, it brought you the misogyny on wheels of Rollergirls. Now, it puts you into a Paranormal State.
- Take even the Sci Fi Channel, which is said to have included Gene Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov on its first advisory board. As is cheerfully rationalized in a folksy FAQ entry on its site, the new “Syfy” was something that could be trademarked. Have you seen much science fiction there lately? Maybe some horror, right? Including SmackDown. Imagine lesser.
I’ve put you through that tenebrific triumvirate of trivia not because I don’t love you but because it’s easier to see the fulsome folly of others’ faux pas than our own.
Publishing’s Best News of the Week
Yesterday, Friday, Little, Brown in London announced that it’s creating Blackfriars, the first digital literary imprint from a major UK publisher. Normally, I don’t celebrate the creation of new imprints because we have too many imprints already; they’re an Old Publishing device that merely clutter the scene and never made sense to readers.
In this case, however, I’m delighted.
Click to read this full Writer Unboxed column.