Publishing and producing texts

What is the busi­ness of lit­er­a­ture?, by Richard Nash, is one of my all-time favorite essays about author­ship and pub­lish­ing. The entire piece is phe­nom­e­nal and this bit was per­haps my favorite:

It was a sign, almost one hun­dred years ago, of the book begin­ning to achieve what most tech­nol­ogy will never accomplish—the abil­ity to dis­ap­pear. Walk into the read­ing room of the New York Pub­lic Library and what do you see? Lap­tops. Books, like the tables and chairs, have receded into the back­drop of human life. This has noth­ing to do with the asser­tion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a tech­nol­ogy so per­va­sive, so fre­quently iter­ated and inno­vated upon, so worn and pol­ished by cen­turies of human con­tact, that it reaches the sta­tus of Nature.

Add that to Instapa­per and set­tle in for some thought-provoking reading.

Bonus link on a related note is Fetishiz­ing the Text, by Kieran Healy.

The Future of RSS Isn’t Another Net­NewsWire:

My hope is that peo­ple don’t use this sec­ond chance at a decade old tech­nol­ogy just to build Net­NewsWire with popovers, a Tweetie-like side­bar and Twit­ter and Face­book shar­ing. The future of RSS isn’t in the feeds itself. It’s in fig­ur­ing out how to extract the infor­ma­tion out of those feeds and present it in an inter­est­ing and non-overwhelming way.

The Archive is a Camp­site:

Search is an inter­face for access­ing the archive, just as the front page is an inter­face for access­ing the news. The archivist’s task is to build an inter­face that offers a bet­ter expe­ri­ence than search.

Such a great arti­cle about archives and their poten­tial for high­light­ing the ongo­ing value of writ­ing. I appre­ci­ate the empha­sis it places on human touch. Some­one once told me that, “Great con­tent doesn’t scale. You always need some­one to have their hands on it.”


Took a bit of a break this after­noon and watched Lino­type: The Film. Really great doc­u­men­tary about what was, for many years, rev­o­lu­tion­ary pub­lish­ing tech­nol­ogy. It’s a lit­tle crazy to real­ize that the gap between idea and mass pub­li­ca­tion used to lit­er­ally require liq­uid metal poured one line at a time.

Mid-week reading list

With the crazi­ness of run­ning a Word­Camp last week I didn’t have much time to read through my Instapa­per queue. Thank­fully, I had some extra time to catch up on things tonight. Inter­est­ingly I had a lot of arti­cles that hit on sim­i­lar themes. Last week seemed to be the week to pub­lish pieces about publishing.

Scott Hanselman’s Your words are wasted was first up. It speaks to my belief in the impor­tance of open source soft­ware and own­ing what you pub­lish. As he says, “I con­trol this domain, this soft­ware and this content.”

It’s been a while since I’ve read some­thing from the Nie­man Lab but I think I need to start fol­low­ing them more closely again. 13 ways of look­ing at Medium was well done. They save the crit­i­cal ques­tions for the end and there could have been more of those, but it’s an inter­est­ing look at Ev Williams’ new pub­lish­ing tool.

The Dan­gers of Being a Prod­uct Instead of a Cus­tomer was another good post. As Diego writes there, “I’d much rather be a cus­tomer of web ser­vices than a product.”

Anil Dash’s mus­ing on streams was inter­est­ing as a some­what higher level piece. Peo­ple do read on the inter­net, they just require con­tent to be pre­sented in the right way.

Inter­est­ing stuff going on.

Chris Bowler:

But tools can only go so far. In the end, it comes down the writer. In writ­ing, the fric­tion that has to be dealt with the most is that which takes place in your head. Not from your tools. A good writer can change thoughts, opin­ions and even worlds, regard­less of the tool or plat­form used.

Plat­form­ing Books:

I strongly believe dig­i­tal books ben­e­fit from pub­lic end­points. The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of read­ers (human, not elec­tronic) have formed expec­ta­tions about shar­ing text, and if you obstruct their abil­ity to share — to touch — dig­i­tal text, then your con­tent is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.

Word. Art Space Tokyo is a gor­geous site and I bet will drive a lot of dig­i­tal sales, in addi­tion to readers.