How Digital Publishing Is Both New and Now
It is no longer a contention that digital technology is sweeping us off our feet at a perhaps uncomfortable pace—it is regarded as an incontestable fact with no existing obstruction to the digital era’s astounding acceleration. Who could have predicted ten short years ago that we’d spend more time face-to-face with a computer screen than another human being, cellular devices would imitate the functionality of computers, and an iPad would revolutionize the way businesses performed daily activities? The digital age is upon us, here to stay, and Amazon is converting that into dollar signs atop its robust $74 billion revenue.
Remember when buying a book entailed having to take a drive to the nearest Borders or local independent bookstore, where the musty odor from yellowed pages would instantly envelop your sense of smell? A small area existed, maybe in the corner of the store, with a shaggy rug and leather lounge chairs that beckoned you to get comfortable and stay for a while, book in hand and imagination boundless. It was easy to become engrossed by the infinite shelves of literary prose and nonfiction, forgetting that hours were passing by, as we existed beyond the touch of time.
Though the romanticism of bookstores has not vanished altogether, Amazon has challenged the remnants that do remain to prepare for the end. If making room on our bookshelves for the Kindle e-Reader wasn’t enough of an indicator, Amazon created the iPad’s adversary, Kindle Voyage. It has replaced romanticism with cheap plastic and packaged our imaginations in the form of a paperback impostor—with web browsing capabilities, movies, apps, and games of course.
The electronic commerce corporation expanded the playing field to include publishers. Seeking to introduce publishing houses birthed in the sixteenth century to the twenty-first century, Amazon now touts itself as an independent publisher, eliminating the traditional role of agent, publisher, and seller. Writers now have two relationships to foster: one with readers and a second with Amazon.
If Amazon is contesting that there is no longer a need for publishers, it is hiding beneath a misleading premise, because its paramount objective is to conquer the industry and become the sole provider of literary works. Where independent publishers saw art and vision, Amazon sees dollar signs and marketing strategies—advocating the clichéd notion of “out with the old and in with the new!”
The relationship between writer and reader is one of the most translucent, fresh, and compelling rapports. When we are engaged with a writer’s words we are engaging with the world, cradling concepts, truths and desires in a way that is unrivaled. And though it might be with greater ease that more writers begin to emerge through this newfound affair with the digital era, if their words find it simpler to leave a lasting impression upon us, is it not plausible that diversification will diminish? If publishing houses cease to exist in the future, Amazon will have successfully monopolized literary culture and will perhaps have taken a menacing stab at free speech as a consequence.