"The printing press is either the greatest blessing, or the greatest curse of modern times, one sometimes forgets which.” – James Matthew Barrie
At a recent Southwest Florida Writers Association meeting, the speaker, James M. Abraham, Book Broker, gave an interesting talk about the evolution of printing from the Gutenberg printing press in the mid 15th century to the present technology. I could never recite all the facts, even if I was a note taker, or capture the tone of his eloquent delivery, so I’m doing a fast forward recap.
Prior to the invention of the printing press, monks were responsible for hand lettering most books. Only a few of the very wealthiest of people could afford to hire a monk to moonlight in order to publish their own work. Thus most everything “released” was Church oriented. The advent of the Gutenberg printing press allowed a much larger segment of society to own and publish books. Bypassing the Church expanded the types of books available.
Skip ahead about five centuries (I told you this was the fast forward version) to the digital world and vanity publishing. Instead of circumventing the Church, authors finally had a way to get around the powerful New York Publishing Houses. If a writer couldn’t get the attention of these publishers, for a price, they could still get their books in print.
As the technology improved, companies sprang up that could now help authors avoid vanity presses and simply, again for a price, self-publish.
I’m adding my two-cents worth here. I say that so you won’t blame Mr. Abraham for my viewpoints. Now e-publishing is possible, which skirts the self-publishing presses and allows a writer to make their work available, often with no fees at all. This means anyone who has even the vaguest dream of becoming a “published author,” can fulfill that dream.
As an author published by a small traditional publisher who takes advantage of POD technology, I am grateful for the advances that have been made in the publishing world. It was exciting, to say the least, to see my very own work transformed into a “real” book, with my name on the cover. I don't begrudge anyone that opportunity.
My point (I’m sure you’re wondering if I’d ever get there) is that I find myself questioning if the more recent advances are a hindrance to authors who hope to have a successful career as a writer. After all, with more books in print and an endless supply of e-books, there is more competition than ever for sales. Getting your book noticed has never been easy, but I’m thinking it’s becoming even more difficult.
Some books are very well done, regardless of the publishing method, some very poorly. Buyers are, rightfully so, a bit skittish. Is their money going to buy a professional product they will enjoy or an inferior creation published only to soothe someone’s ego?
With the numerous advances in the publishing industry, it boggles my mind (which, I admit, is easy to do these days) at what the future in this field holds in store. Toddlers using voice recognition to tell their life story? Embryos using brain waves to publish tell-alls about their mother’s diet prior to birth?
Help unboggle my mind with what you think. Do the publishing options available these days offer equal opportunities to all aspiring authors? Are readers better off with more material to choose from? Or, does it provide a platform for inferior work, watering down the attempts of those who hope to make a living from writing books? What’s the next advance in the publishing world?
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Barrie, James Abraham, Gutenberg printing press, POD, self-publishing,vanity publishing, Southwest Florida Writers Association,