The Quickly Changing World of Publishing Part 1: Digitize Everything

Click here to read Part 2

Comment Bubble.jpg
Plato Bust 1.jpg

Naysayers of the indie ebook world have been hard pressed to find cons to match the pros involved in the whole business.

The pros are uttered so often and make so much sense that people have grown suspicious of them. Independent publishing has yielded rewards both globally and individually.

For one, ebooks are not made out of real paper. They’re selling millions and millions without a single sloth-home being chopped in the amazon.

‘I like a real book,’ I’ve often heard. ‘I like the feel and I like the smell.’ Well, I do too. But I also like my e-reader as much as the next person likes their Nook, Kindle or Ipad.

On my nightstand, there sit about a dozen and a half books, and somewhere in the pile, the original box that came with my e-reader; my e-reader inside of it, sleeping, its library filled with dozens more books, about four of which I’m reading somewhere between the dozen and a half physical books.

Am I a minority in my ebook/book dualism? Perhaps we haven’t conducted enough surveys on the matter. We continue to read statistics on printed book sales vs. ebook sales vs. indie-ebook sales. People certainly don’t buy both, do they?

They do. Not only do people buy both, but I believe they will continue to buy both. Even if all the big publishing houses get wiped out and the only option left is internet indie-publishing, there were be all these books lying around.

I realize that apocalypses are scary things, but one thing people too often forget is that debris is a major part of any apocalypse. What kind of debris do you get with a print apocalypse? Books.

No matter what happens, there will be stacks of books. They may not be sold on the shelves anymore and they may not be in print, but droves of them are sitting around in garages, in libraries, basements, attics, offices, homeless shelters, hospital lobbies, storages and the overstuffed bags of lonely navy boys.

Proposition 1: printed books will always exist.

There is too much of a love for them, despite the fluctuation of demand. Even if the demand were erased, there are too many of them to be antiques—They would be artifacts. Our curiosity with all things antiquated by the fashions of time and by economic contingencies would keep these particular artifacts, these books, a source of eternal interest. If they are to become artifacts of the past, they will be artifacts unlike any other. They yield too much information too ignore. A pre-internet form of knowledge will always be valuable, even if for the sole reason that people will have to read the books just to find out why there aren’t any new ones.

Let’s say this antiquation were to take place. It is my suspicion that, if it were to come to that stage, there would be an eventual, if not quick, move to digitize all printed books.

Ebooks are eternal. For me, the prediction is quite simple. With all books digitized, they will, through varying means, always be available to print. Who is to control the printing of these once artifactual books and who will hold the rights will represent the new political dimension for that era.

But as for right now, we are in an early, experimental stage. Everyone is frightened. People who love physical objects don’t want those physical objects to turn into mere ideas floating around in space, and that is understandable. But I repeat myself when I believe that, in the end, we will have it both ways. People will always want both.

The internet makes Plato right in one sense. A Platonist would say that a turtle can only be what it is because there is a universal mold for it that always existed. This allows a turtle to be ‘printed’ thereafter, so to speak.

Since ebooks never go out of print, they exist out there in the platonic realm of the internet forever. Now, we all know that books are created by authors and that no novel is capable of fooling us into thinking that if we start at the end and flip backwards through the pages, there will be an infinite regress. The closest we can manage is something like the works of Joyce, who merely conveyed a sense of eternal recurrence in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

Nevertheless, with the eternal ebook floating out there in space, there will always be a mold by which it may become a physical object.

It seems to me that the historical development of literature has and will continue to be, not a process of evolution, regression or dissipation, but one of oscillation. In the beginning was the spoken word. The word became page and the page became gigabyte. This may seem like an evolution, but where does one go from the gigabyte? It is only a mold to contain what was reflected as a page. The page will always exist for the text, just as words will always exist for language.

For those who are weary, for those who want only the physical book object and worry about the change of technology and the change of consciousness that will come with that change of technology, I say, digitize everything. Let no book escape and fall into the dirt and dusts of time. Let no last copy get wet and unreadable. Let no Alexandrian library burn. Let no memoir, manuscript or pamphlet blow away in the wind, but digitize, digitize, digitize!

We will have our books.

Click here to read Part 2