I was utterly amazed to learn that an “American Idol” star had published a book, but was herself illiterate. That’s where I was when I learned the war on literacy was over. Sadly, we have all but lost. I offer a pocket of resistance, singularly mad, knowing full well that I will never be able to turn the tide in the battle against the erasure of the mind.
Yes, one can argue easily that my own limited success at publishing a story or two has simply made me jaded, and that all this is nothing more than a jealous rant. But I insist, the evidence is mounting. The very publishing industry itself has sold creativity and thought-provoking story for whatever will make the most money. Consider the works of the late Robert Ludlum – in particular, his Bourne Identity series. Recently, I picked up the fourth book, written by another author. I give this other author credit – the story kept my interest and was hard to put down. Not to mention the daunting task of trying to continue along the same lines of such a prolific writer as Ludlum was. But there were odd gaps in the storyline. I don’t know whether to blame the author, or to blame the publisher. For instance, in one scene (spoiler alert), the villain kisses his dying love interest. The detail is clear when the author states he tasted the salt from her tears. And yet, both characters were in biohazard suits. WTF? Did the author forget? It’s possible. I know from my own writing that if I don’t reread and reread what I have already written, I inevitably overlook some detail. But shouldn’t the publisher have caught this rather glaring mistake? Did the publisher even bother to read the manuscript?
That brings up a second evidentiary point: Amazon published the eBook manifesto of a pedophile. In their rush to turn profit and fulfill everyone’s fantasies of being a published author, who is guarding the gates? Who is reading the vast amounts of fiction and non-fiction flooding into the offices of literary agents and publishing houses at an astonishing rate? The answer, sadly, seems to be no one. Profit before prose!
Profit has always and will always drive the publishing industry. It’s what drives any industry. But I look at the books on display at the failing Borders and Barnes and Noble and think, “Who in their right mind would think such a book would be a good financial gamble?”
Magazines are no better. They, for the most part, have devolved into a publication of lists, not articles. The argument is that people today don’t have time to read articles, and prefer to get their information in neat little packets. But can the editors and writers for such publications actually consider themselves journalists? They just compile facts, or more often than not, make up something mildly humorous because doing so removes the burden of fact-finding, vetting stories, and actually knowing how to present an engaging article on a given subject matter.
If the bookstores want to save themselves, they must insist on bringing quality fiction and non-fiction to their shelves. To purchase X amount of stories against Y amount of returns only works so far. No wonder people don’t read. Why read a book that is rushed to market, without investing in the marketing or readership experience when TV, the Internet, and video games produce higher quality (or at least equal) end-user experiences?
These are just some thoughts that have been recurring.
Let me ask you this: Where were you when you realized the war on literacy was over?
Next Post: My Second Novel (Your Chance for Input).