“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!