Technology is revolutionizing the field of publishing and allowing the renewal of an intimate connection between author and reader, publisher Richard Nash claims.
Nash, a noted publishing entrepreneur, delivered a talk Wednesday to 30 students, facult, and community members at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the topic of revolutionary events in the publishing world. Despite Nash’s aim to address the history of books from before the Gutenburg printing press up to the modern day, there was a split reaction from audience members over whether he gave the future of print its due attention.
“To speak of publishing as a revolution is much easier to do in the abstract than when the first example is 200 feet over there,” Nash said. “That’s kind of intimidating.”
Nash described the history of book publishing, focusing on turning points such as the advent of the printing press and the impact of the industrial revolution on production. Throughout publishing’s history, Nash said, a rift has been gradually growing between the writer and the author. Gone are the days of the oral tradition when author and audience directly interacted, though for an individual, he added, reading a book still remains an intimate experience.
“Books are more intimate than sex,” Nash said. “At least with books you have to keep your eyes open all the time.”
Books also have the power to connect people who have shared in the experience of reading them, Nash said. By utilizing universal networking technologies and publishing books and manuscripts online, modern publishing can build and develop these connections in a way that is more financially advantageous for the author in the long term than the traditional printing press, he said.
Nash has been highly involved in developing internet startups that allow authors and readers to do just that. Literary websites Small Demons and Red Lemonade were both created with the aim of re-establishing the social connection that used to exist between the author and the reader in the days of the oral tradition, and to provide a venue for readers to interact and share their experiences of a book. Red Lemonade, of which Nash is the publisher, allows authors to create profile pages, review manuscripts, and critique and discuss ideas with one another, using live-chatrooms and message boards to create a community. Small Demons, which will be launched next month and for which Nash will coordinate content and community, uses processed digital files of manuscripts to catalogue all references with cultural weight, allowing people to quickly peruse many books with a certain end in mind.
Charley Locke ’14 said that Nash’s descriptions of how he utilizes modern technology proved to her that publishing is not a dying field, but rather one that is rapidly changing. Acting master of Calhoun College Amy Hungerford said she agreed, adding that Nash’s talk crystallized the trends she had been studying in contemporary publishing.
But for other some lecture attendees, news of the latest revolution in publishing was greeted less enthusiastically.
New Haven resident Bill McGovern said he was shocked to learn about how much the field had changed.
“It seems like written books are a thing of the past,” he said. “This whole social thing kind of scares me; it doesn’t seem like that is reading books for the right reason.”
Another New Haven resident Christopher Anagnostakis said that though he was also surprised, he acknowledged that social media might be the future of reading.
“Personally I could never read a Kindle,” Anagnostakis said. “But it may just be a matter of habituation; that remains to be seen.”
The next lecture in the Beinecke History of the Book Series will be given Thursday night by Archivist Giles Mandelbrote.