Not So Passive Anymore
The Passive Guy rarely speaks, but when he does, pay attention.
One of the brightest observers of the changes in the publishing world, The Passive Guy is a lawyer who runs a blog — ThePassiveVoice.com — which aggregates industry news and opinion. He quotes the choicest bits from the source, provides a link to the original, and opens the comments for discussion. At the end of each story, TPG often writes a line or two. His gift is to synthesize the complex into the obvious. Sorta the opposite of what most lawyers are paid to do.
Responding to this article in The Atlantic, The Passive Guy couldn’t remain silent. I’ve never seen him be so active. What poured out is the fiercest, most right-on, goosebump-inducing defense of the democratization of literature that anyone has uttered in years. And it bears me giving it The Passive Guy treatment.
Because who could be better for democracy than a small number of huge international media conglomerates controlling the future of ideas?
What could be better for democracy than an inbred group of gatekeepers who decide what appears in bookstores and what does not?
What could be better for democracy than contracts that control and restrict what authors are permitted to write?
PG submits that Amazon is far more egalitarian and pro-democratic than big corporate publishing is.
Want to write about your personal philosophy? Want to push the boundaries of the literary form?
Don’t go to New York. For all their pretense (read the entire Atlantic article), they’re cogs in a corporate world that’s cramped by convention and quarterly profit requirements, pretenders striking poses for one another.
This is the group that has presided over a long decline in American reading, questing for short-term gain by pushing book prices ever higher while paying authors less and less and transforming them from independent artists into anxiety-ridden grist for a soul-destroying mill.
Literature in the United States was doing just fine before the industrial literary era dawned, killing dozens of small publishers and thousands of independent bookstores.
Make no mistake about it, today’s traditional publishing establishment is the product of decades of consolidation, concentrating more and more power over what is published into fewer and fewer hands. The latest and largest example of this trend is the merger of Random House and Penguin to create the largest publisher in the world.
As independent authors arise, empowered by Amazon’s democratic commons of ideas, PG says we’re looking at a renaissance of American literature, an upheaval that is shoving the suits out and putting authors back in charge of the art they create.
Despite the dying spasms of Big Publishing, the wall between writers and readers is coming down. Uncontrolled and unmediated ideas are being released into the wild, giving readers the opportunity to decide which will flourish.
Whether the path out of corporate serfdom comes via Amazon or someone else, authors who have discovered the freedom that comes with owning and controlling the fruits of their labors are not going back to the plantation.
As Passive Guy has read the tsunami of screeds that have erupted from various participants in the legacy publishing world, he has noted a common subtext: “Big Publishing is the devil we know. It gives me enough gruel to survive. Don’t mess with my gruel!”
PG and many independent authors agree in part. We do know that devil and believe it’s time for that devil to go. Whether a new devil arises or not, we know the old one is beyond redemption. We’ve found a better way.
I’ve got nothing to say.