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Poetic spam and the future of publishing

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Two unrelated items:

1) Sometimes, spam has a poetry all of its own. A spam comment on this blog, for example, talks about how a certain product, “Aided me out”. I can imagine that in a line of Chaucer: “Aided out I were…”

2) After Futurebook on Monday and Publishing Now (at City University at the weekend), there has been a lot of internet chin stroking about the future of publishing. I get the impression that most people believe themselves to be in Rumsfeldian territory, the land of unknown unknowns.

But, there are some exciting concrete developments too – I was really taken by a presentation on location-specific storytelling at Publishing Now. The digital world isn’t a faceless, globalized series of robotic greys, as you might’ve thought from sci fi of the past. The digital can be initimate, a niche experience.

As to what publishers should do to respond to the changing world… well, it’s all a leap in the dark. Somewhere in that dark, the darker shadow that is Amazon. Amazon, whose arm has grown long indeed (I’m saying that in my Gandalf voice).

An Amazon rep as seen through a publisher's eyes?

At least, if you listen to enough publishing people talk about Amazon, you do start to believe it’s a dark overlord of destruction, rather than a retail company. Whether or not it’s the bogie man many believe it to be, it’s definitely a long-shadowed figure.

For publishers (and publishing-related startups), this is a time of all kinds of opportunity and danger. Take a big financial risk and it could turn out that you’re at the head of a gold rush… or that you’re incredibly incredibly screwed. It may be best for established publishers to leave the risks to the little guys… at least to share some of the risks with a smaller, nimbler partner.


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