Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charles Darwin, Really?

Did you read this little essay by Joni Evans in the New York Times on Sunday? My favorite part is "SO, it's 2009. Now what?" (The answer to which is a big publishing shrug.)  I think perhaps someone should have edited those last three paragraphs out of Ms. Evans' piece, don't you?  Plus the whole Darwin Metaphor Thingy really makes you see why writers write and editors edit.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Loyal listener but first time caller here...

I don't mind the Charles Darwin thing - having come from a background in print production, it's incredible how much has changed in the physical act of producing a book. And I think that's basically what Evan's is covering - the cosmetics, the clothing of publishing. The "physicalness" rather than the intellectual.

I don't think she was going for any deep insights - just some observations in the rearview mirror.

Worked for me...but then again, I'm at that stage where I think wistful thoughts about "the good old days"...

- J.

Writer, Rejected said...

I would have been okay if she didn't come back around to it and point at it with such a heavy touch. Just being overly critical probably.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I get ya. But I'm a sucker for good prose, beautiful women, and good food. Which is why I'm more of a reader than a writer, married to the same woman for 28 years, and bit more than a tad overweight...

Beyond that, who knows what the future will bring really...today will be someone else's good old days...

- J.

gimme said...

I'm still waiting to hear how "print on demand changed the foundation of publishing." Too funny.

Jeff said...

That depends on what you believe is the "foundation of publishing". If you believe that the purpose of publishing is to produce "art", you might be wrong. If you believe that the purpose of publishing is to manufacture and sell books, you might be right.

So where that "foundation" changes is that with on demand and e-books, you manufacture and sell books to an actual and immediate need rather than a projected one.

The result is that you have limited cost of raw materials, no overproduction and resulting investment in inventory, no warehousing,and limited distribution costs. You produce based on individual order and reduce expenses substantially.

That being said, there's a compromise to be made. No more clothbounds, no finishing techniques (ie embossing, stamping, screening), no end papers, no book jackets, etc. The physical and aesthetic life of the book is commoditized to a bland deliverable format.

How that will affect authors is just being discussed.

For me, a book is not just about content. Publishing may claim otherwise but the bottom line really is the bottom line.

- J.