October 12, 2007

Print is Dead

From Jeff Gomez, a nicely-designed site previews his new book: Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age.

Chapter 4, Writers in a Digital Future, is a tour from New Grub Street to afternoon. The terrain is not unfamiliar, though the conflation of afternoon with Choose Your Own Adventure seems dubious. The excerpt ends (abruptly, in mid-sentence) just as things are getting interesting.

Gomez writes that

Since its introduction, hypertext has been consumed by a mostly cult following, created by experimental writers existing far outside mainstream publishing.

Gomez is not alone in saying this, but I don't think it's actually true. The mainstream for publishing is Harvard, not Hollywood; when we talk about literary publishing, we're talking about what people read and study and write about, not about box office. By that standard, hypertext is mainstream with a vengeance; hypertext has a critical audience that plenty of literary movements would kill for. Hypertexts are read in all sorts of courses all over the world, from Freshman Lit in Community Colleges to graduate seminars. They're in all sorts of libraries (and this list needs updating).

Mainstream is a slippery term, anyway. Are mysteries mainstream? Horror? What about something like The Lovely Bones, which seems, formally, to be a fantasy? Is it more mainstream because it sold a zillion copies? What about Jo Walton's Farthing and Ha'penny? What about Emswhiller's The Mount? You can wind up arguing that anything good cannot really be mainstream, and anything mainstream cannot be good, and when you do that you're sitting up late with Job .