RARA-AVIS: big-business vs. artisanal publishing

From: Todd Mason (foxbrick@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Mar 2010

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    One thing that Sandra is touching on that I'd like to make explicit is that the "mainline" publishers didn't start being gobbled up by megacorporations last year or even in the last decade, but by the latter '60s and certainly in the early '70s, when, for example, Gulf & Western was the parent corporation of both Paramount and Simon & Scuster, CBS was buying publishers, Warner didn't quite start from scratch, and so on. And the blockbuster mentality came with them, though it couldn't quite displace the standard operating proecdures of professional publishing, which included useless snobbery and a dependence on not usually fully above-board distributors among much better things, which were able to continue...particularly at those houses which for some time managed to remain independent.

    And even in the earlier '60s, as previously, onward, as Algis Budrys put it, small dinosaurs went on for years on what fell from the mouths of larger dinosaurs. The influence that Waldenbooks and B. Dalton could weild in the '70s wasn't Too terribly different from what their eventual big siblings in the Big Box stores could in the '90s, and now Amazon and the discount stores have sway.

    But it is true that it's a very fortunate writer indeed these days whose work is treated with respect by the corporate publishers, who obviously still have the reach that the indies don't have. Happily, there is enough of an interested subculture, and occasional breakouts in the larger culture, to make for some profitability in small-press publishing...as long as publishing continues at all as we have previously known it.

    Todd Mason

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