Technology and Publishing: Part IV

I think it’s extremely important to distinguish between the different interests and different aspects of writing / publishing that are being affected. Throughout these articles I’ve shared in the past few weeks, I have talked about: the writer, the actual physical book, the publisher, and publishing industry (the last two of which are not the same). I have previously clumped them all together though as I was learning about all of the components and getting a feel for what exactly is happening with regards to technological advancements. However, in this article, I plan to distinguish between them all and talk about which are being affected how. The last two texts, at least for now, that I will share on this topic are, “Digital Truths Traditional Publishers Don’t Want to Hear,” an article by Barry Eisler, and, “The Future of the Book,” a mini series of essays broken into five chapters published on The Economist, whom I will refer to as the publisher.  

The first realization that I was lumping all the different components together came when I read Eisler’s article. He points out that “publishing isn’t dying,” but publishers are and will if they aren’t willing to evolve. I found this extremely interesting because I hadn’t thought of them as completely two separate entities before. It’s very true, though, they are intertwined but stand alone simultaneously. Publishing content in the traditional way, meaning sharing with others, whether authors are paid for it or not, will never cease to exist. However, as Eisler talks about for quite some time, “Because of digital, legacy publishing, which used to be a necessity, is now only potentially useful.” Eisler also distinguishes very clearly what publishers do and what is necessary. He lists the services that publishers provide to authors: editorial, copyediting, proofreading, jacket design, printing, and marketing, all bundled with distribution. Nevertheless, all of this is becoming optional with online publication, e-books, and the newly self-publishing method. “We have to be careful not to conflate publishing services with the entities that have traditionally provided them,” (Eisler). So these services are available, but have become optional because of technology.

Writing, as I have spoken extensively about, also will never cease to exist; however, the ways in which it exists have been altered (i.e. Twitter, blogging, etc.), and writing, as a profession especially, is up for debate as to whether or not it can withstand the new advancements and the monetary changes. Lastly, the physical book: though we are moving away from it, I believe there’s still a long while before it becomes obsolete.

 The Economist has written it’s first chapter in this essay on the actual book and where it’s headed, and I believe this applies for the entire essay. The Economist, in chapter one, isn’t talking about the writer or the publisher — to some degree, they’re talking about publishing, but they are generally focused on the physical book. The first chapter uses Cicero’s de Officiis as the main example. This chapter discusses the many different media this text has gone through over the years of its publication, to which The Economist states:

But to see technology purely as a threat to books risks missing a key point. Books are not just “tree flakes encased in dead cow”, as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.

It goes on to say that there was the purpose of having private thoughts and pleasures when reading a book. However, technology can be used now to share thoughts, meaning, feelings about a given text. This is a very positive way to look at technology, the benefit that it gives readers. It allows the world to, in a sense, become smaller because thoughts from across the world can be shared instantly. The chapter concludes with, “The private joys of the book will remain; new public pleasures are there to be added.” In this respect, technology is a beneficial medium for books. However, this is just books we’re talking about not the whole spectrum of publishing and it’s components, discussed earlier. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a discussion about what degree this is changing publishing, as I mentioned in one of the first posts.

To conclude, the four components mentioned (books, the writer, publishing, and publishers) are all being changed throughout this development of technology. I think for the most part, publishers are taking the hardest hit, following that, are books, and then writers. However, I am the least concerned with publishing because it’s still thriving, but simply in a different form. The fact that publishing has changed doesn’t seem to really cause any damage. However, this doesn’t seem true for the other three components. Of course, all of these will survive, but they might be compromised. Everything comes to an equilibrium at some point, and whether that “homeostasis” is something that we are satisfied with in the future or not is a different story.

Works Cited

Eisler, Barry. “The Digital Truths Traditional Publishers Don’t Want to Hear.” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

“The Future of the Book.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

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