Will We Recognize the Publishing Industry in the Next Few Years?

According to Lev Grossman of Time Magazine Online, the public in general will be in for some wild times (so to speak) when it comes to the publishing world, and the novel in particular.

As quoted from Publishers Lunch(since my browser is endlessly thinking about opening up the link to the online article):

"A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn't dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it's done. Literature interprets the world, but it's also shaped by that world, and we're living through one of the greatest economic and technological transformations since--well, since the early 18th century. The novel won't stay the same: it has always been exquisitely sensitive to newness, hence the name. It's about to renew itself again, into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever...."

To which I say: So Mr. Grossman thinks this transformation will be like the English novel back in the 19th century. No, he talks about the 18th century, but this is my comment. ;-) Damn, I really do wish I could afford the Teaching Company's course on the English novel!

"...More books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City's entrenched publishing culture. Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.

To which I say: Yeah, not to mention epubs going under, writers getting stiffed...riotous jungle, indeed. (Make sure you bring your own Tarzan. Or something.)

"Novels will get longer"

To which I say: This guy obviously has never read epic fantasy.

"--electronic books aren't bound by physical constraints--and they'll be patchable and updatable, like software. We'll see more novels doled out episodically, on the model of TV series or, for that matter, the serial novels of the 19th century."

To which I say: TV series? No, make it more like the serial novels. I could get into that. :-)

"We can expect a literary culture of pleasure and immediate gratification. Reading on a screen speeds you up: you don't linger on the language; you just click through. We'll see less modernist-style difficulty and more romance-novel-style sentiment and high-speed-narrative throughput. Novels will compete to hook you in the first paragraph and then hang on for dear life."

To which I say: Wait - novels don't try to hook you in the first paragraph NOW? Isn't that what we, as the great unpublished (or somewhat published), are told we have to do to sell our babies? Hmm? Unless literary fiction means you just have two people gazing at each other for three or four pages...

I get that he's saying ebooks will really take off (tell that to the romance writers out there who've been busy selling their stuff to legit, long-standing epubs for a number of years now), but maybe not in the form we're used to. Although it's kind of hard to imagine people, after staring at a computer screen at work for umpteen hours, will want to stare at another screen for their reading pleasure.

However, technology being what it is, ebook readers will (hopefully) become easier and easier on the eye. Maybe Amazon is on to something with the Kindle.

Who knows?

Hindsight is 20/20, so there's no way to know for sure if Mr. Grossman is correct. But what do you think of his overall assessment?

Love and kisses,

~Nancy Beck