I heard an interview with the writer Cory Doctorow recently in which (it seems) he argued that posting writing online where anyone who wants can access it and read it is not publishing. Publishing is the act of bringing a work together with an audience. Because posting something online doesn’t guarantee an audience, it’s not publishing. That was one thing. The other end of what he was getting at was that making a book available online for free download doesn’t mean that no paper copies of the same book will be sold. People who want the convenience of a paperbound codex will pay for it. People who want a properly formatted ebook for their ereader will pay for it. People that just want to read your book for free should be able to do so. From the writer’s point of view, he wants not only money, but to be read. A writer will maximize his audience by being available to any reader who wants to invest the time whether that reader is willing to pay or not.
When I began researching Doctorow’s writings on the subject of publishing I ran across a corollary to this notion of publishing as bringing together a work and a audience. Doctorow says that bloggers who bring unknown works to a larger audience are acting (in effect) as publishers.
Case in point: While the description of Ted Heller’s novel West of Babylon in Sam Jordison’s Guardian review doesn’t convince me that it’s a book that I’d want to read, I was pleased to see that the Guardian is paying attention to self-published books. In keeping with my comments about publishing above, here Jordinson is effectively acting as a publisher in connecting a books with an audience. I’m guessing a few of the Guardian’s readers will be interested in a “down-in-the-gutter” rock-and-roll novel even if it isn’t the sort of thing I seek out.