Publishing and/or perishing once again

This is another one of those posts for 516, a kind of two-fer: Clay Shirky has a very smart post on boing-boing about a recent NYTimes piece by James Gleick, “How to Publish Without Perishing.” As Shirky puts it, “until recently, book lovers have been the most passionate readers. Now they are mostly just the oldest readers.” In brief, it isn’t so much the container (the book, the bottle) but the stuff being contained (the words/text, the wine) that is really the issue.

Shirky and Gleick are correct of course, but they aren’t really that original. This is kind of an old argument, one that I first recall being academically articulated by Richard Lanham in a 1989 essay, “The Electronic Word: Literary Study and the Digital Revolution” and collected in his excellent book The Electronic Word. In any event, I did a unit on books/publishing last year in 516, so maybe I will include these new things with the now “old” things.

Incidentally, my on-again/off-again kindle desires are currently on hold, this time thanks to both Amazon and to various rumors I have heard. I just about ordered one a couple weeks ago, but when Amazon told me that it was 3-4 weeks for delivery, I decided I needed to hold off until I knew I was going to be here and not traveling over the holidays. Then, when I checked the amazon site on this the other day, I was told that all I could do is order a “place in line.” I don’t know what the deal is with this, but when I combine this news with rumors about Kindle 2.0 (not to mention the crappy economy encouraging everyone to save their pennies), it would appear that now would be the time to wait. A good friend of mine who has a Kindle himself tells me that he has heard Kindle 2.0 will be announced in the first quarter. This is perhaps what Amazon wants folks now to “get in line” for, but I think I’ll wait to know what I’m getting to put out my money.

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