Monday, June 2, 2014

Still a Mostly Solitary Pursuit




There is very little large-scale synergy and interaction between a site like Goodreads and independent bookstores and cafes where people tend to meet specifically to discuss and trade books. 





In the 1990’s, many social scientists believed that the Internet would–by speeding up and digitizing almost every form of communication–make cities obsolete; that people would no longer feel compelled to physically gather together in a world where gathering could be simulated online. This hypothesis, however, at least in regards to cities and downtowns, proved to be fundamentally inaccurate: the formation of communities online has lead to the formation of communities offline; the internet age has coincided with, and very likely instigated the rebirth of urban centers across the United States. The essential premise of social media, of tech theory, in 2014, is that the digital, online world–the world of social media–merges with the physical world: the world of lunch, coffee, shopping; meeting, working, creating.


For indie writer-publishers–for independent artists-entrepreneurs in general–this observation, this fact, let’s say, has not been entirely well-heeded: indie writing, publishing, and appreciation has remained, at least by my estimate, a largely online universe; a universe that has not built a doorway into the older ‘brick and mortar’ world of bookstores, readings, and well, general conversation (book talk). The proof of this–the general failure of online indie-lit communities to impact the offline book world, is that–and this is admittedly dangerously close to a circular argument–the offline book world looks and feels the way it always has in the era of corporate/conglomerate publishing: bookstores that carry new books are still remarkably homogenous and unadventurous; as are middle-brow tastes.


For example, if there were, in City Neighborhood X, 50 very determined and well-organized fans of obscure Norwegian Poet Y, all of whom found each other online, then that neighborhood’s bookstore (assuming it has one!) should carry said Norwegian Poet Y. In other words, if online literary communities were integrated with offline literary communities, those offline communities would be radicalized and localized: no two would be the same. My argument, my observation, is that many bookstores, almost all bookstores really, except of course, for specialty bookstores of the Bible or New Age variety, do look the same, and thus aren’t impacted by the micro, niche reader communities online.


This means that indie writers who work very hard on their manuscripts (the layouts, the cover-art, and the marketing) cannot, despite their effort, find two people to have a conversation about their book; 200 people might give their book 5-stars on Goodreads, but those 200 people can’t be bothered to hang out and talk about the book itself.


There is very little large-scale synergy and interaction between a site like Goodreads and independent bookstores and cafes where people tend to meet specifically to discuss and trade books. Goodreads has been very, very good at sustaining discussion around obscure or partially forgotten classics, for instance; but it has not, from my observation, fostered richer human relationships; offline relationships; relationships embedded in a wider community of like-minds. And yes, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, et cetera, all contain literary and indie-lit denominations; but again, those online communities have not lead to more consequential communities: communities in-the-actual-community; communities that, in turn, sustain more reading, writing, discussion; buying and re-buying.


The consequences for indie writers–and readers–is, simply, continued isolation. 1,000 indie-books might be published a day, but those books, those authors, and their readers do not communicate, gather, discuss, and cross-pollinate, enough, or at all.


My explanation for this–and, again, ‘this’, is a very general and nonspecific observation/hypothesis–is that the culture of indie books, which is, as I’ve indicated, an essentially internet-bound culture, has just not valued physical interaction enough; has lost the habit, or never gained it, of cross-pollination. The culture of Goodreads, or a Facebook fan-page, is essentially–and critically–passive: authors are too satisfied to have a meaninglessness number of ‘likes’, and readers are trained to go no further than offering those likes, if they even read the book; and more community-minded writers and readers, like leftists, or poets–literary aesthetes of all kinds–tend to snobbishly hold their noses above the self-publishing world and thus withhold their energy from it.




Matthew Gasda's first novel "Moon on Water" is now available through online retailers and by order at bookstores everywhere. 


- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2014/04/still-mostly-solitary-persuit/#sthash.f3odNn3P.dpuf


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You can find the original article at: http://indiereader.com/2014/04/still-mostly-solitary-persuit/

By

There is very little large-scale synergy and interaction between a site like Goodreads and independent bookstores and cafes where people tend to meet specifically to discuss and trade books.

Columns, Homepage Sub, Matthew Gasda  •  Apr 30, 2014
In the 1990’s, many social scientists believed that the Internet would–by speeding up and digitizing almost every form of communication–make cities obsolete; that people would no longer feel compelled to physically gather together in a world where gathering could be simulated online. This hypothesis, however, at least in regards to cities and downtowns, proved to be fundamentally inaccurate: the formation of communities online has lead to the formation of communities offline; the internet age has coincided with, and very likely instigated the rebirth of urban centers across the United States. The essential premise of social media, of tech theory, in 2014, is that the digital, online world–the world of social media–merges with the physical world: the world of lunch, coffee, shopping; meeting, working, creating.
For indie writer-publishers–for independent artists-entrepreneurs in general–this observation, this fact, let’s say, has not been entirely well-heeded: indie writing, publishing, and appreciation has remained, at least by my estimate, a largely online universe; a universe that has not built a doorway into the older ‘brick and mortar’ world of bookstores, readings, and well, general conversation (book talk). The proof of this–the general failure of online indie-lit communities to impact the offline book world, is that–and this is admittedly dangerously close to a circular argument–the offline book world looks and feels the way it always has in the era of corporate/conglomerate publishing: bookstores that carry new books are still remarkably homogenous and unadventurous; as are middle-brow tastes.
For example, if there were, in City Neighborhood X, 50 very determined and well-organized fans of obscure Norwegian Poet Y, all of whom found each other online, then that neighborhood’s bookstore (assuming it has one!) should carry said Norwegian Poet Y. In other words, if online literary communities were integrated with offline literary communities, those offline communities would be radicalized and localized: no two would be the same. My argument, my observation, is that many bookstores, almost all bookstores really, except of course, for specialty bookstores of the Bible or New Age variety, do look the same, and thus aren’t impacted by the micro, niche reader communities online.
This means that indie writers who work very hard on their manuscripts (the layouts, the cover-art, and the marketing) cannot, despite their effort, find two people to have a conversation about their book; 200 people might give their book 5-stars on Goodreads, but those 200 people can’t be bothered to hang out and talk about the book itself.
There is very little large-scale synergy and interaction between a site like Goodreads and independent bookstores and cafes where people tend to meet specifically to discuss and trade books. Goodreads has been very, very good at sustaining discussion around obscure or partially forgotten classics, for instance; but it has not, from my observation, fostered richer human relationships; offline relationships; relationships embedded in a wider community of like-minds. And yes, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, et cetera, all contain literary and indie-lit denominations; but again, those online communities have not lead to more consequential communities: communities in-the-actual-community; communities that, in turn, sustain more reading, writing, discussion; buying and re-buying.
The consequences for indie writers–and readers–is, simply, continued isolation. 1,000 indie-books might be published a day, but those books, those authors, and their readers do not communicate, gather, discuss, and cross-pollinate, enough, or at all.
My explanation for this–and, again, ‘this’, is a very general and nonspecific observation/hypothesis–is that the culture of indie books, which is, as I’ve indicated, an essentially internet-bound culture, has just not valued physical interaction enough; has lost the habit, or never gained it, of cross-pollination. The culture of Goodreads, or a Facebook fan-page, is essentially–and critically–passive: authors are too satisfied to have a meaninglessness number of ‘likes’, and readers are trained to go no further than offering those likes, if they even read the book; and more community-minded writers and readers, like leftists, or poets–literary aesthetes of all kinds–tend to snobbishly hold their noses above the self-publishing world and thus withhold their energy from it.
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Matthew Gasda
Matthew Gasda's first novel "Moon on Water" is now available through online retailers and by order at bookstores everywhere.
- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2014/04/still-mostly-solitary-persuit/#sthash.f3odNn3P.dpuf

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