Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Books are Like Hamburgers

When the 'net was young – and so much smaller – a band of college students and techies hand-assembled pages of links in an attempt to map this new world.
This made their startup company, called 'Yahoo!', an essential web resource, and one of the hottest stocks in the great dotcom run-up.

But the 'net quickly grew beyond human capacity to define it, and the search engine crown was stolen by Google's machine search algorithms.

Years later, the world is more routinely and widely connected than ever, and a strange thing has happened. Human 'search', by way of vast social networks, has begun making inroads against the machines. (As predicted many years ago, in this video.)

from this site
When the world was young, humans passed along stories. These stories attempted to explain the world, to teach what was right and wrong, to define our reason for being. Stories were important. The best of them bound us together and defined us. Humankind hungered for stories, believed in them, built statues and buildings honoring them.

With the rise of commercial culture, storytellers became 'authors' and their stories became product. Since human nature is unchanging, people still hungered for stories. But more and more, the spiritual nutrition we sought was processed out of them. Just as a McDonald's quarter-pounder bears only a superficial resemblance to a 'real' hamburger,  so too has our overflowing, empty-calorie literary bounty left in its wake a world starved for meaning.

The original Harry Potter
had to overcome this
atrocious cover
But here too, we are coming full-circle. As writer after writer has begun to walk, with steadier gait (and even some boldness) away from 'traditional' publishing, they have begun to realize that they can be free – if they choose – from the terrible burden of 'producing a product', rather than what they thought their path would lead them to. As one recently said [edited]:

I thought I needed to be taken advantage of, paid poorly, and chained to idiotic pricing and cover art. I was deluded. The truth is that I couldn’t care less whether New York editors and publishers like me. I don’t want to write for them. I want to write for you. The other undeniable truth is that readers couldn't care less that my books aren’t put out by a big publisher. They read for the content, not the publishing house emblem.

Authors – if they dare – are free to become the tellers of our tribal stories once again. And just in time: There's a hungry world out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment