As usual, the things that really count, those that bring about the most important changes, tend to occur in a rather hidden fashion, underground and almost never on the surface. This is true for volcanoes, rivers and ocean tides, and even a person’s spirit. It’s also true for the transformations currently taking place in the publishing industry. You’re all caught up in attending glamour conferences, oh-so-social events and costly conventions populated by the usual people, and then, voilà, you discover that the things that really matter are actually being discussed (and in the only way that makes any sense, i.e., problematically) in the comments of a blog! And naturally we’re talking about a rather famous blog, that of Wu Ming, and yet (no offence intended to our Wu Ming friends) certainly not the prime time of the media market.
This is what happened: Wu Ming is publishing an ebook – Giap. L’archivio e la strada – (disclaimer: Simplicissimus is the publisher of their ebook), and of course they announce it in their blog, presenting it (and rightly so) as an experiment of a new paradigm for them. Up until now Wu Ming has always released the digital version of their books free of charge, with the assumption that it could stimulate sales of the paper edition. But that doesn’t work anymore, and perhaps the time has come for books to be digital in the first place, before a paper edition might – and only if necessary – come out.
The really interesting part, however, is the comments on the blog, which have evolved into a discussion and conversation that touches on all the critical issues the publisher finds himself up against, as seen from many different points of view: that of the publisher, the digital or non-digital bookseller, the reader and even the author and artist. From production to marketing, from the debate on whether or not ebooks should be free to the risk of concentration of the sales channels in the hands of a few quasi-monopolists, from the distribution of proceeds among the various players of the supply chain to the possibility that writing can still be considered a profession you can make a living on. From self-publishing to a new vision of the publisher’s job. And even more.
In short, you can find just about everything in those comments. And on everything, or almost everything, I’d like to have my say. And I will, but… only after you’ve read it all, and I mean the whole kit and caboodle, in the Wu Ming blog 🙂