One of my sources of ideas (there are many) is an “aggregator” of arts content called “Arts Journal.” http://www.artsjournal.com/ “Arts Journal's editor is Douglas McLennan, formerly an arts columnist and arts reporter with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Weekly. Doug . . . is currently acting director of the National Arts Journalism Program while it reinvents itself.” The source blogs are listed so if you see one you really like, you could break away to follow it alone. McLennan gives the blog posts enticing short titles, sorts them into categories and links them to the sources. All you have to do is go down the list and see what interests you. An earlier version to which many of us became devoted was Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate or http://aldaily.com My computer used to be set to use it as an opening page every day.
Today on Artsjournal in the little section that suggests videos from YouTube there were two vids which, taken together and pondered, have a lot to tell us. First is a 1947 Encyclopedia Britannica explanation of how to manufacture a book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBztGX-2i1M Watching the dozens of people in a printing plant repetitiously making, sorting and moving the simple components of books, the industrial nature of the project becomes clear: molten metal, molds, frames, assembly lines, hot glue, sharp knives, rollers and conveyor belts. Rows of people standing up, fitting into the machines’ needs. But remaining employed, useful without education so long as they have two arms and two hands. Today’s version is far more automated, computerized, though my brother once had a job sitting next to a big commercial press as the quality control man. He perched on a stool, grabbed a copy of a magazine off the assembly line, quickly flipped through it to look for gaps and blunders, put it aside and grabbed another. He said it was one of the worst jobs he ever had. He is college educated.
One component in this little movie that superficially seems the same is the first element: the scowling author, a good-looking young man, sitting at a proper desk with a big typewriter. He pulls the last sheet of paper from the roller, puts it on a four-inch stack of paper, and presumably mails it to the mighty publisher who either owns a book manufacturing plant or has enough money to contract with one.
The next video is about who that scowling (to indicate skeptical intelligence, I presume) man has become. Everybody. Scott Simon of NPR (quite friendly, so what can he know about the world? Isn’t knowing a matter of giving us the angry word of truth?) provides advice about composing stories, not for PRINT but for audible publishing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiX_WNdJu6w Words as conversation.
Things are falling nicely into place for me to make some points. Jane Friedman recently listed the four ways print is “published” these days. This is my version and I am widening the concept to include more than letters on paper or even letters on screens. I’m defining published as “made available to readers.”
- “Heritage” -- meaning old-fashioned presses handled by a company that finances everything from choosing the work, editing, buying the paper, distributing and so on, producing an own-able object.
- Print-on-demand -- as few copies as you please -- which may be marketed through a company (intermediating) that contracts with the author to do all or part of producing and distributing paper “books.” (Espresso POD machines are INSTANT print-on-demand -- well, it takes about a half hour, long enough for a cup of coffee.)
- EPublish -- a company agrees to do all or part of the work of editing, formating, providing access, and “discovery” -- how people know it exists and how to get to it.
- Disintermediated publishing, direct from the author. Maybe a paper book, possibly an electronic book acquired through online sources as an ebook, read in a number of different ways on various devices.
- Audible books downloaded or purchased, on tape or as mp3’s or via radio.
- Multiple media ebooks with videos or music or print or any other arranged content that can be electronically conveyed via devices.
- Doubling back: artists’ books, like Tim Barrus' one-of-a-kind book I posted the video about yesterday. Sometimes there are a dozen copies. A woman who did this wanted to make one of my sermons (about Time as a serpent) into a book shaped like a snake and she even had chosen the blue-green scaley paper to use -- but she had a grandchild instead.
Which is a good place to tie this off, because there really is no end to the many ways stories can be conveyed -- how about sign language? -- and Scott Simon’s pointers about “telling stories” are necessary because the content, or at least the presentation of it, is changed by the medium. The point of my serpent sermon was not just that time slithers along, but that as it goes it swallows us, digests us, sorts us into excrement and eggs and extrudes both into the cosmos where we participate as either or both -- discards or the source of some new thing that starts a new serpent. (And one serpent’s excrement is another serpent’s egg and vice versa.)
One of the best slitherers in the Garden of Book Eden is blogging. I put a thousand words on here, you comment, tomorrow the same. But by tomorrow we’re both different. And I might go back to my blog, edit it, organize twenty or so posts into a paper book or an ebook because the topics fit together or because they follow a line of thought. I might add illustrations or not. I might ask whether I can include some of your comments or other writing in it. Maybe drawings or photos or maybe a bit of music. Possibly in several languages.
At present I’m not doing anything but blogging, streaming short essays. I only want to write. I don’t want to do anything else. But an intelligent computer-equipped person (possibly through the helpfulness of a library or cyber-café) could right this minute begin to supply contracted work in editing, researching, developing markets, organizing distribution, and all the other things that scowling young men and tubby old ladies don’t want to do because they are busy writing. Intermediating is where it’s “at” for alert people who want to work with stories. If you only want to write, you no longer need an intermediary.