Forward the Foundation

by Apr 16, 2012Books, Culture

The Times has been talking actively about the fight over the future of book publishing. The fight is getting serious.

I think society will have to figure out two issues with regard to books:

  1. What is the best format in which to read this particular book? Codex? Kindle? Tablet? (Scroll!?)
  2. What is the most economically sustainable model for book production? (Sub-questions here: What role will traditional publishers play? What role will massive online clearinghouses with thin margins [read: Amazon] play? What role will physical bookstores play? Is it ethical to walk into Barnes & Noble to see a book then to buy it right there—from Amazon on your iPhone?)

Amazon—an erstwhile darling now feared (and, let’s admit it, loved!) for its economic Darwinism—seems ready to overthrow the whole publishing system as it has existed since time immemorial. (Or at least since I was born; same thing.) They’ve said as much, as the article above shows.

My amateur opinion (the very definition of “blog”) is that the market will eventually work itself out. The demand for the kinds of books that cost a lot of money to produce will still exist, and people will still pay. But electronic distribution of analog and digital books will leave many middlemen out. Companies will have to move with the times or die.

But I’m a love-your-neighbor kind of capitalist. I don’t want survival of the fittest to mean the torturous death of the weak. So I think back to one book I read on dead (and decaying, in this case) tree pulp: Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation Trilogy. The “psychohistorians” in that story tabulated the sociological data and accurately predicted the fall of Trantor’s intergalactic empire. 40 billion people on 25 million worlds would, they said, descend into a chaos that would last for centuries. Their goal was not to stop that chaos but to shorten it with wise planning.

Is anyone in America—Barack Obama? Jeff Bezos?—capable of doing this with the publishing industry? I don’t know.

Read More 

A Few Quotes from The Genesis of Gender by Abigail Favale

The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Abigail Rine Favale My rating: 4 of 5 stars Well written, provocatively helpful—provocative because she was schooled in evangelicalism (which makes her like me) and in feminist theory (which makes her not like me)—and is...

Review: Comanche Empire

The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hämäläinen This excellent book does what modern history is supposed to do nowadays: it gives a voice to the voiceless and the marginalized; it gives agency to the victims. And yet you can’t always predict what will happen when you go...

Answering a Question about Political Philosophy

A friend asked me for my thinking—and my reading recommendations—on Christian political philosophy. I was pretty frank and open. I don't hold myself up as a master of the topic. I welcome input from others here. What should I read? What should my friend read? My...

Review: Means of Ascent

Means of Ascent by Robert A. CaroMy rating: 5 of 5 stars This book is positively monumental. How does Caro do it? Well, I know how he does it. I read his book on the topic. He does it with a lot of hard and humble work (and some excellent help from his wife). I was...

Leave a comment.