Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Death of Paper

by J.S. Holland

Even though I am horrified by the new "e-book revolution", the requests I receive to get on that bandwagon have increased exponentially in the last three months. And some industry insider sources tell me that the printed-on-paper book will be DEAD by this time next year. So, I'm on the verge of announcing a new deal wherein I'll produce a series of new works in the e-book format. Watch these blogs for more details on that. I don't have to like e-books, but it's something that people seem to really want me to do, and like Gene Simmons says, "I do it all for the fans."

I still mourn the impending death of paper, and I still view with great wariness society's sudden zeal to reframe literature as imaginary pixels sent through the aether to be viewed on a yet another digital handheld gizmo. The act of having to go through all the hoops of getting an agent, getting a publisher, getting a book edited, printed, and publicized – while it sure was a pain in the butt for writers – actually served an important purpose in providing a natural "survival of the fittest" set of checks and balances.

Now that any teenager has access to better movie-making tools than Steven Spielberg had when he made Close Encounters, and now that anyone with a laptop can call themselves a recording studio, the quantity of indie-produced crap has flooded the market to the point that movies and music have become fundamentally devalued. And they get more and more devalued with each passing year.

Francis Ford Coppola once said he dreamed of a future where even little kids could have access to the same technology as he had, and that would level the playing field for everyone. Wonder if he still feels the same way now that the film industry is on its last legs? Oh, it "levels the playing field", alright – like a hydrogen bomb.

I’m already seeing a flood of tossed-off e-books that would never, never, ever have gotten a book deal in the old world, and for damn good reason. People who were typing whatever nonsense popped into their cabeza on a blog for free are suddenly refocusing that content and now calling what used to be blog posts "e-books". Some people are even reselling Wikipedia articles as e-book content, and some other people are even dumb enough to buy them. Everyone from criminals to crackheads are suddenly churning out e-books nowadays, simply because they can. And in so doing, the idea of the book itself is already becoming devalued. And it's gonna get worse.

I’m glad I got in on the tail-end of print media before it all collapsed. It was nice to be able to say “look, my book’s in stores around the world”, and to say, “look, I write a column for this magazine sold in stores around the nation.” Our kids won’t have that thrill or those goals to pursue, because there’s really nothing all that special about being "published" now. And when there's nothing special about a thing, it is by definition in a state of decay.

(Needless to say, MY forthcoming e-books will be different, of course ;) And I urge you all to flock to your nearest e-store soon and e-purchase them! They'll make great e-gifts!)

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