Scott Turow and the Publishing Marketplace
April 8, 2013 | 4:00 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Turow’s editorial was a mishmash of all sorts of trending stories, offering his comments on used books, libraries, the Kirtsaeng decision, Amazon, and who knows what else.
He has been derided, and rightly so in my opinion, for taking a somewhat extreme and out of touch view of the current marketplace. But what I think often gets lost in this knee-jerk reactionary stuff (both on the part of the originator and the various respondents) is that these pieces often do contain an element of truth.
I know, right? It’s easy to dismiss someone like Turow as a bit of a raving Luddite for his apparent view that the Internet is Going to Destroy us All. But, to be fair to him, he is right about a few things. The markethas changed. The role of the authorhas changed. As a result of the Internet, it is true that authors who want to be profitable and successful will have to change their ways; it’s true that what worked before may not work now.
Where I think both sides in an argument like this differ is not so much in the facts but in the interpretation of them. To the hundreds of thousands of indie authors not represented by Turow’s Authors Guild, the Internet is the new frontier, where a brave pioneer can come into the land with nothing and work their way, through cunning and perseverance, to the top of society’s proverbial ranks. It is the great equalizer where anyone, no matter who, can find their platform or audience.
Of course, if you’re on the other side of that divide—the mayor of the ratty old town these brave new immigrants are colonizing—you’ll be threatened. But that doesn’t mean progress should be halted and pioneers should be prevented from working the land. After all, if change is so terrible, then surely Mr. Turow would be happy to give up his electricity, indoor plumbing and motorized vehicles and live just like back in the good old days, no?
I’m not saying the brave new world doesn’t still have its share of kinks to work through; of course it does. But I think we’d all be better served by looking at them as just that—kinks to reasonably work through—rather than as deal-breakers that mean we have to stop the whole thing and go back to horses, buggies and oil lanterns.