Friday, December 16, 2016

Reading :: Mass Authorship

Mass Authorship and the Rise of Self-Publishing
By Timothy Laquintano

Disclaimer: Laquintano courteously sent me a copy of this book earlier this fall. I'm glad he did. The phenomenon of self-publishing is really interesting to me (and not just for academic reasons), and it's been begging for a systematic study. Laquintano provides that study—actually qualitative "studies of four groups of writers" based in grounded theory (p.191). (His appendix on methods provides great detail on how he conducted the study, which included interviews as well as an internet-based corpus.)

Taking an activity-based approach, Laquintano examines how people are self-publishing, especially on sites such as WattPad and platforms such as Amazon's Kindle. Along the way, he thoroughly examines questions such as what it means to be an author, why people self-publish, how people market and promote their own books, how they police (or fail to police) their intellectual property, and the shifting meaning of authorship.

Most interesting to me were two propositions. One is that "self-publishing is entailed in shifting systems of mediation" rather than disintermediation (p.9). The other is that "networked participants (as opposed to 'readers') [have] the capacity to publish and induce networked  effects that shape the trajectories and circulation patterns of both traditionally published and self-published books and create mediated book cultures" (p.9).

Laquintano examines these propositions, and others, in detail. The result is a nuanced examination of the shifting ground of publishing. If you're interested in publishing, self-publishing, and the future of publishing, take a look.

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