Kris Rusch

CONFRONTS HEAD-ON the blinders-on approach of traditional publishing to the oncoming changes in the book market. She links to a blogger who is apparently listened to in the corridors of powah in New Yawk Citteh. The man sounds to me like he’s trying to impress with his erudition to cover his lack of substance. That is to say, he can’t dazzle us with brilliance, he’ll try to baffle us with bullshit.

He asserts that nobody can know what’s coming down the pike. Which might be true if you wanted an absolute prediction of millimetric precision for two years out, every weekly high and low. But to garner a general impression of what’s up, one only need to open his eyes.

The thinking of the publishing industry — really, of every industry threatened with obsolescence as an effect of advancing technology — looks a lot to me like the magical thinking in other arenas: leftist statists and government “solutions” to problems and non-problems alike; warmistas and their hockey sticks; buggy-whip manufacturers… They tend to assume that trends will continue straight-line. Which trends never do. They curve down. They curve up. They curve sideways. They corkscrew. But they never continue straight-line. Why people always act as though they do is frankly beyond me.

People poo-poo the possibility that DiY authors can successfully market their own books. You need editors. You need book designers. You need cover artists. You need typesetters. If you go to press, you need expert printers who know how to not only put ink on paper, but how to bind the books. I know something about these things, and for people living in the future that started in the late ’70s and devastated vast swathes of the graphic arts, they really ought to know better. People in the printing business said the same things: you’re never going to get the same levels of quality; you can’t get the color matches, the saturation, the clarity with halography that you can from offset lithography or rotogravure. Print-on-demand will fall down when it comes to binding books in small quantities. And so-forth.

People in entrenched positions are whistling past the graveyard. Like so many Neros, they fiddle while the burning Titanic sinks beneath the waves, the deck chairs sliding down the inclined teak. They make the same mistake so many have made in the past when faced with losing position and privileges to progress. They discount human ingenuity. And, as I say, they assume present trends will continue straight-line.

Never assume the status quo will remain even quo, let alone static. Change is. People will push for change. Envelopes are made with flexible outsides for just that reason. If you can’t publish an illustrated book on Kindle, then people will seek out other platforms, where illustrations can be served up. And Amazon will either adapt or die. (And Wednesday’s release of the Kindle Fire should provide abundant notice as to which way Amazon’s management is playing things.) If publishing picture books isn’t on, creators will push until it is. As it is, I just the other day downloaded an eBook file of Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates. If you’re at all familiar with it, you’ll know it is full to the gunwales with illustrations — even color illustrations. Yeah, it’s a .pdf file. Yeah, my little one-lung, 6″ Kindle will only display the illos in grayscale. But the Kindle for PC displays them just fine in color. You can bet the Fire, when it finally ships, will, too. That change didn’t take long, now, did it?

I hear Kris Rusch’s linked-to blogger wondering what market there will be for adult illustrated books, and wonder if this guy has been living under a rock in a Geico commercial for the last decade or so … has he never heard of Frank Miller’s Sin City or The 300? Is he familiar with the body of work by Neil Gaiman? Does the phrase Ghost in the Shell mean nothing to him? Does he know that national borders mean less and less with every passing day? Is he aware that an entire nation of hundreds of millions of people supports thriving industry of adult illustrated books? Does he think Manga in e-Book format wouldn’t drive the development of e-Readers? Does Kindle DX mean nothing?

What flabbergasts me is the seemingly deliberate obtuseness. There’s abundant opportunity for entrepreneurial writers. And if humans have demonstrated nothing else in our millennia of history, it is that we are an entrepreneurial bunch. SOMEbody will make money at this. (Some several bodies already are.) Why not you? Do these people not WANT to make money? As Heinlein said, it’s raining soup! Grab a bucket!

Cross-posted at Musings of an Indie Writer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *