I debated about posting this, because it's SO insane, but there's this article in The Globe and Mail (via PV) that's sort of an exciting new low for reporting on the changes in the publishing industry.
It was so bad that, in all honesty, I couldn't read the whole thing. Here's as far as I got:
Ewan Morrison is an established British writer with a credit-choked resume and a new book out, Tales from the Mall, that the literary editor of the venerable Guardian newspaper hailed as “a really important step towards a literature of the 21st century.”
By his own account, Morrison is also being driven out of business by the ominously feudal economics of 21st-century literature, “pushed into the position where I have to join the digital masses,” he says, the cash advances he once received from publishers slashed so deep he is virtually working for free.
“I’ve been making culture professionally for 20 years, and going back to working on spec again seems to be a very retrograde step,” Morrison says. “But it’s something a lot of established writers are having to do.”...
Many will cheer, Morrison admits, including the more than one million new authors who have outflanked traditional gatekeepers by “publishing” their work in Amazon’s online Kindle store. “All these people I’m sure are very happy to hear they’re demolishing the publishing business by creating a multiplicity of cheap choices for the reader,” Morrison says. “I beg to differ.”
Of course Scott Turow weighs in at this point (I mean, of course), and the article is kind of a hilarious admixture of warnings that publishing is going to become "feudal" and "winner-take-all" and warnings that the "masses" (who are "publishing," not publishing) are going to take over--it's like they couldn't decide whether the left-wing bugaboo or right-wing bugaboo would scare people more, so they went with both.
But the thing that amazed me the most was Morrison. He's quite a wonder. I mean, a million writers are delighting many millions of readers with their books, but everyone should just knock it off because it's an inconvenience to him. Oh, sorry--I'll go unpublish my novels right now, sir!
The whole "I've been making culture professionally for 20 years" quote is remarkable as well. Morrison has been "making culture" (in his socks, presumably) professionally for 20 years and he's never had to adapt? He's never had a publication go under, or had an editor jump ship and be replaced by someone who insists on using their "own" writers? The man who created "a really important step towards a literature of the 21st century" never had to adjust his writing to stay relevant? Wow...Canada really is a wonderland! *
Oddly enough, when I think of someone who is a professional, I think of someone who gets paid to work in an industry, most typically because this is how they themselves pay for food, shelter, etc. And when your survival depends on you getting paid to work in an industry, you have to keep up with the industry. Health-care professionals read medical journals. Manufacturing professionals explore outsourcing and automation. Retail professionals scan bar codes.
You do that because if you get lazy, you wind up not being able to bring anything to the party that anyone thinks is worth paying for.
But I guess professional makers of culture are the exception. Or, given what's happening to Morrison's finances, maybe they aren't.
The thing is that Morrison's attitude is only an extreme version of one shared by a hell of a lot of people. Writers who believe that their "life simply does not allow them to learn yet another new thing." Writers who want to have mass sales without having to cater to mass tastes. Writers who are still producing documents the way they were taught to in seventh-grade home ec class in 1965. Writers who think that progress is a bother that is best ignored.
* Someone pointed out that Morrison is, in fact, British. So that should read "Great Britain really is a wonderland!" except for the whole part where I'm really talking about a magical land in Morrison's head that is completely disconnected from reality.
Morrison appears to be on a roll....