Home » Education » “Crummy Pap” or Classic Prose?

“Crummy Pap” or Classic Prose?

Technology can make a person feel like they just got pushed in the deep end of the pool.  Every new software release or “cutting-edge” gadget screams for attention – but is it the wave of the future, or just a shallow puddle?

E-books and Self-publishing get a lot of press today.  And when I see that much buzz about a game-changer in a field I love, I have one response – Scepticism.  (Should I fork over the dough for a Kindle, or a Nook, or wait or the next great thing?  I don’t know!)  But, I’m an open-minded gal, so I do a little research, a bit of querying friends, and then I remember my favorite barometer…history itself.  I came across this little nugget via Writer’s Almanac:

Sir Allen Lane, (born 1902), managing editor of London’s The Bodley Head, and later creator of Penguin Books, didn’t have anything to read on the train.  He had a long ride back from visiting one of his author’s – Agatha Christie – and refused the magazines and cheap literary fare available at the depot.  He thought, “Why isn’t there something good to read for sale, that people can afford?”  Penguin Pocket Books was born, making the hardbound publications accessible to everyone.

Writer’s Almanac reports,  “Lane was determined that paperbacks, then mostly low-quality products of low-quality writing, could be the vehicles of great, contemporary fiction… Like most innovations, Lane’s idea — and his success — was initially regarded as a cause for concern by many other publishers and writers. It lowered the aesthetic value of great works of literature — a book like The Grapes of Wrath, for example, needn’t be a beautifully bound hardcover to last a lifetime, but could instead exist as a nearly disposable pocket-sized tome in bright orange, adorned with a funny little bird in mid-waddle. But Lane claimed paperbacks would effectively democratize literature, converting frequent library users to book buyers and readers of crummy pap into readers of classic prose.”

Sounds a little like the furor over E-Readers, doesn’t it? 

How about the uproar about self-publishing?

As Steven Anderson (of GoldMinds Publishing) stated recently in a presentation (read more here), the publishing world has a history of trends – the era of hardbacks was replaced by the era of dime novels, then mass market paperbacks (thanks Sir Allen!).  Now we are faced with a new epoch in the life of literature – digital access, for both readers and writers.

Where do you stand on the issue of digital publishing?  Love e-readers, but hate self-publishers?  Devoted to paper books no matter who writes them?  Has history proven that changes in format and accessibility eventually find a balance

– and does quality rise to the top?

  Leave your comments below and give us YOUR perspective on publishing!

6 thoughts on ““Crummy Pap” or Classic Prose?

  1. I’m still somewhat ambivalent about all of this ePublishing wave. I’m trying to turn some of my out-of-print novels into eBooks, and I’ll have to see if there is any success to it. If so, I may ePublish some of the newer books I’m working on. Self-publishing has such a negative history behind it, but I’m beginning to understand that the old world of New York midlist publishing is dead. We’ll just have to leave it to the masses to tell us where this new venture will lead. If I can just make sense of all this HTML coding stuff….

    • I think a lot of it requires a “wait and see” approach. It doesn’t hurt to try new things, but it seems a bit premature to say that ALL paper books are dead! It certainly makes all new work for the author – and we didn’t even talk about marketing. Yikes!

  2. My NOOK is full of obscure authors unknown to the masses who have decided to self-publish with a low $$$ purchase price! I will never get rid of my hard back books – nor will the feel of a paperback leave my brain…but truly…cannot count how many nights the NOOK slowly slides to the floor and quietly shuts itself off after a page doesn’t get turned in five minutes…

    I do a fast pre-sort almost weekly reading the short “pick me!” “pick me!” adverts placed out there and me with my finger on the mouse and my debit card on the other side trying to decide…. I LOVE self-published books!! Do it!!

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