Internet and Reading

This Wall Street Journal article was enlightening on the impacts that technology, namely the internet, has had on the ability of new and unknown authors to break into the literary world. While the internet has manifestly improved the capabilities of authors to produce work and get work to publishers, it has been all too effective. The piles of unsolicited work, informally known as slush piles, have grown insurmountable for most publishers and the deluge has driven up the costs of finding new talent.

The most interesting part for me was how some publishers have taken to solving this problem. While some have given up, and others have moved to an internal review system, Harper Collins has moved to incorporate the technology that created the problem to harness it. At their website Authonomy.com users can upload, read, and review works by anyone from anywhere. Every month the editors at Harper Collins review the top 5 works on the site and publish those that they deem profitable. So far they have published only 4 books out of over 10,000 submissions.

I’m wondering if someone will take that idea and create a cross-publisher system where users can submit, read, and review books from anyone anywhere just like on Authonomy, but which will then take those highly rated books and present them to a number of publishers and shop for the best deals. Basically create a sight like Authonomy used by agents instead of publisher to track down material.

I wonder if agents are tracking any of the ratings for books that can now be self published through Amazon for their Kindle.

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2 Responses to “Internet and Reading”

  1. I was just having this conversation with a friend last night. He was saying he’d actually heard Amazon was going to build a kind of ‘app store’-style feature for literature, whereby site users could upload their own literary works for sale from Amazon, presumably to download on the Kindle. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea, fearing a deterioration of business for publishing houses whose expertise and editorial knowledge (I believe) improve the quality of the material on the market. I was then persuaded to reconsider my position, however, when it was brought to my attention that this kind of system would more likely function as a catch-all for works not deemed potentially profitable by the houses themselves. If this system offers an alternative publishing avenue to initially rejected pieces, I believe this could be a great thing for readers and authors alike. I have no idea whether this Amazon rumour has any substance to it, but it raises some interesting points about the free market and the role of experts in sifting through what customers have access to. A little like Google and their potential control of popular discourse… 😉

  2. Josh Wittner Says:

    It’s not a rumor, and it’s been developing a base of published books since the Kindle came out.

    Here’s the link for people interested in publishing: https://dtp.amazon.com

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