Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pioneers or Parasites?


The 11/27/11 issue of the New York Times Book Review contains a review by Jeffrey Rosen of a new book by Robert Levine, How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.

By "culture business," does Robert Levine mean the monopolies which have dominated the publishing business for so long?

Accompanying the article are blown-up photos of actual parasites, one of them labelled "e-books." Wow.

My response is that the New York Times with its stale and elitist view of literature had better be scared!

Levine's argument, presented by Jeffrey Rosen in his review, is that entertainment distributors (like Amazon) "become 'parasites' on the media companies that invest substantially" in artists, musicians, and writers. This "sucks the economic lifeblood out of those who create and finance the best achievements of our culture."

It's debatable how good those "best achievements" really are. Sucking the lifeblood out of giant media conglomerates seems a great thing to me. It's called levelling the playing field.

Writers will arrive who'll be able to produce ebooks with writing more original and striking than anything from the Bigs, at a fraction of the price. They've already arrived. I'm one of them. I have no overhead, other than a cheap netbook and occasional coffeeshop purchases. I challenge Rosen, Levine, or anyone at New York Times Book Review to read my 99-cent Mood Detroit and tell me it's not expertly edited and proofed-- by myself-- with strong themes, subjects, and voice. Tougher writing, lower price, better value. (My best ebooks are yet to come!)

How will the artery-hardened Manhattan skyscraper bureaucracies compete?

Can they afford 99 cents?

Possibly they're afraid to read what's coming just around the curve.

It's also curious that the Book Review publishes Rosen's review, with its concerns about copyright and "parasites," three pages away from a review which praises Jonathan Lethem, a writer who a few years ago wrote an essay for Harpers magazine defining the word "plagiarism" out of existence. Curious indeed.

We're seeing the inevitable democratization of literature-- moves that naturally threaten the cronyistic little world of the establishment variety, which has dominated the art for too long.

Will the sleepwalking New York Times ever wake up?

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