VQR’s web editor, Jane Friedman, is at Frankfurt Book Fair this week participating in a seventy-two-hour project to write a book on the future of publishing. Read her earlier post on Day 1, as well as Is Self-Publishing the Most Important Transformation in the Publishing Industry?
All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who rhapsodize about writing, reading, and books. As far as the writing and reading, that’s why I’ve worked in publishing since the late 1990s. But I’ve never been that attached to the container or physicality of the book, which is probably why I keep moving a little further each day to the digital and interactive side of the business.
I don’t know when my disenchantment with the book started. Maybe it was after attending my first BookExpo America (BEA), where the flood of covers and commerce wasn’t invigorating or exciting, but rather deadening. You wake up to book publishing as business infrastructure and history; it is familiar and comfortable in many ways. It eventually became boring to me, in kind of the same way that galleys arriving at the office, day after day, all start to look the same and bring clutter and annoyance.
It is fanciful and contrarian to be sitting on the floor of Frankfurt (ten times larger than BEA, at least), and writing about all the ways in which the conventional business will eventually transform or even disappear. The unanswerable question for me is how fast. Within my lifetime? Within the lifetime of people born this year? Either way, I find myself writing about publishing without any attachments to its containers or infrastructure, because I know writing and reading will survive it (until such a time that telepathy or brain download are invented). That’s why I think the title of this seventy-two-hour project is exactly right: beyond the book. I’ve been working my whole life to be in that place.
Read the essays by me, team members, and other collaborators from the past two days: