Shoot The Messinger

There’s an excellent interview at The Scowl with Jonathan Messinger (see, pun, not typo, and stolen from the name of his blog), known to some as the Books Editor of Time Out Chicago and to others as the co-publisher of Featherproof Books an operation which, alongside Underland Press and Two Dollar Radio, will make my decision to leave Soft Skull look like I was just trying to get out before the cool new folks obliterated me.

Some useful points to chew over, including their subscription series, and their mash-up promotion, both activities you know I’ve been advocating lo these many years (OK, well, 2 years and 4-5 years respectively…) and at which they arrived, as have so many others, utterly independent of any of my beseechings, but I’d draw attention to his discussion of the third of my bugaboos, the pointless zero sum game approach to format:

What it always devolves to is one person clinging to what they’ve grown up with and accustomed to–the printed book, this classic, vaunted, untouchable commodity–and self-appointed visionaries who see digital distro as the obvious wave of the future, plowing down the fogies and fuddy-duddies.

If we de-politicize it, it becomes a much more open, interesting discussion. My feeling is that both media offer something that the other doesn’t. So why should one replace the other? What does digital do best? It readily reaches a much broader audience, costs significantly less money, has multimedia capacity. But print does some things better, too: trades in immediacy for longevity, has a tactile, textured component that digital hasn’t been able to replicate. There’s also a great single-mindedness about print that I enjoy. So I don’t worry so much whether print will “die” or “survive,” I’d rather just think about how best to use print creatively””what can it do that nothing else can, what are its limits and how do we test them?

But mostly, I’m interested in how digital and print can interact. That’s why we started our Featherproof Remix series, which releases part of a new book, and invites writers to rewrite and rearrange it. We then publish the best submissions as an ebook, a few weeks before the print book hits bookstores (and, of course, our books are available as ebooks). I guess what I mean is that both are great, and interactivity is much more interesting to me than exclusivity.