Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Paper Chase

For the avid reader, a trip to a bookstore is an embarrassment of riches. With endless titles on esoteric subjects (everything from Black Entrepreneur magazine to the 45th installment in the Twilight series) glassy-eyed bookworms pin ball between displays like a Roomba that needs its batteries replaced. However, as more people turn to digitalia for their visual stimulus, a horrifying new trend has emerged in publishing: books based on websites. Arguably, the first of the bunch made sense. PostSecret began as a pretty inventive indie art project, and though its popularity seems to have transformed it from a vehicle for genuine confession to one of competitive voyeurism, it was still compelling in book form. Now, publishers are simply pilfering web content for its cut-and-paste production costs, with mind-numbing results. Among them: Fuck You Penguin (a book of animal pictures with snarky commentary), Would You Rather? (for anyone still agonizing over the landmark "Cleveland Steamer v. Dog Snot" decision), and LOLCat. (By the way- enough with the goddamn LOLCats. It's a desperate attempt to make cat ownership seem less sad and it jumped the LOLShark a LOL time ago. Which reminds me- we need a new phrase to replace "jump the shark".) The blogs-to-books equation is such a transparently slimy boardroom decision, that it takes the quirky randomness out of the source material and makes the authors complicit in an old media/new media swindle. "Let's charge $14.95 for a book filled with pictures that are online for free!" Ugh. Hard copy publishing is supposed to be about gate keeping and I still cling to the faded notion that books are kinda sacred. Blogging is egalitarian because those of us who do it would never expect to get any of our junk published any other way. No one's bookcase is going to be improved with a copy of "NippleBlog" on the shelf.


Anonymous said...

PostSecret is truly one of the originators of the blog to book movement...However, the moment that Frank Warren decided that using secrets in an All American Rejects video he himself jumped the shark.

I love book with words more than pictures, so on a lazy afternoon I will take myself to the bookstore and cop-a-squat in the aisle to look through the pages of PostSecret. It's not financially fruitfull for Warren, but it allows me my jollies while not shelling out $14.50 for something I probably will only look at once more after bringing it home from the bookstore.

Stephen Rollick said...