Brian Tibbetts

July 22, 2015

The Immediate Past or The Distant Future?


Publishing & Technology: The Immediate Past or the Distant Future?
Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about innovation in digital publishing (again). This week, like every week, I scoured the internet looking for signs that the publishing revolution that we’ve all heard about for so many years now will feature something beyond digitally delivered versions of print only books (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and again I came up empty-handed. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but the most relevant article I found this week was penned by The Silent History co-creators Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn in the spring of 2013. For the full article on the Huffington Post site click here.

I had the good fortune to attend a conversation between Eli Horowitz and Paul Collins (yes, that Paul Collins) not long before this article appeared on the Huffington Post Blog. The conversation was a part of the Transmit Culture lecture series put on by the Master’s Program in Publishing at Portland State University and what was discussed that evening galvanized my growing enthusiasm for pursuing for pursuing a career in publishing. During the conversation Collins and Horowitz discussed The Silent History, its recent launch, and its success (or potential lack thereof) as an experiment in innovative digital publishing at length before finishing the evening with talk of Horowitz’s tenure at McSweeney’s and a Q&A session with the audience. The Silent History is a truly innovative in its scope and unique (thus far) in its level of execution. As Horowitz and Quinn put it, “In the olden days (say, 2009), a few publishers did dip their toes in these waters, experimenting with a few innovative projects; these didn’t earn enough to justify their start-up costs, and publishers seem to have now largely retreated to straight digitization of standard text projects, occasionally adding a halfhearted enhanced ebook.” To date, The Silent History, still stands as the best (if not the singular) example of a truly innovative, digital text-based publishing venture. Is the reason for this purely economic or is Taylor Antrim correct in his June New York Times review of Horowitz and Adrian’s (traditionally published) book The New World, when he claims that, “It turns out we don’t want tech-aided experiments in form.”

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