"Let it suffice for me to repeat the classic dictum: The Library is a sphere
whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is
I wonder how long poetry book publishing will survive. If distribution is a
problem for small presses at the moment then the situation can only get worse
as more people publish on-line. The off-line network which seems to depend on
word of mouth and mail order could contract as on-line publishing becomes
increasingly attractive to authors. Poetry libraries could consist of little
more than lists of URLs. There would still be hierarchies, of course. If
there are thousands of poetry sites on offer then there will obviously be a
need for "agents" (human) to recommend that which they consider good poetry.
So we could still have the sort of discussions we have been having recently.
The Internet is not only a new means of publication it is also a means of
distribution. It seems to me that the present situation with regard to poetry
publishing, reviewing, etc, would be totally undermined. And for those of us
who prefer our poetry in the form of ink on paper the book to replace all
books is in the offing. The electronic book which has actual pages that can
be turned and possibly even dog-eared could soon be a reality.
"A prototype with just a few pages could be put together in two or three
with one of 400 pages taking a year or two longer" - Joseph Jacobson, MIT.
I would be quite happy with an electronic book with two pages - why have more
than one can view if the words written thereon can be updated at the tap of a
finger, for instance, in order to turn the page. And if such books had the
capacity to hold the equivalent of the total contents of a library (fuzzy
search capability and hypertext look-up would be handy) which we could then
tote around with us then who would go through the process of producing the
traditional book for any reason other than perversity.
The whole process of acquiring new works could be amazingly simple. Log-on,
browse "samples", a quick on-line transaction, download, then off to the pub
to read. In such a world the problem could easily be that of finding quality
in bewildering quantity. The situation I envisage here (with lots of woulds
and coulds) would no doubt become more complicated as the digital version of
any poem ever written by anyone at all (and "bots" too!) could be added to
those already archived for all time and available for download. It would then
be interesting to see how natural selection would operate in terms of
posterity with a capital p.
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