Monday, October 09, 2006

Down on the Farm

Most publishing industry professionals would prefer that books not be compared to music. After all, only the broadest comparisons really apply (both are in the business of providing entertainment, etc) and, when you get right down to it, even those comparisons have to be manipulated in one way or another to get them to fit. Fair enough.

But the music industry does have one thing going for it right now that the publishing industry really should be paying attention to: mp3 blogs. Technically speaking, mp3 blogs are not really an aspect of the music industry, though. Instead, they are amateur sites were enthusiasts have set themselves up as authoritative tastemakers. These people take the time to seek out new music, review it and repost for other people to enjoy for themselves. An industrious dancefloor DJ can spend two or three nights a week, visiting any number of these blogs and come away with hours of new, good material.

The best part about these bloggers is that they are label agnostic. They are just as likely to post something from a mainstream artist with huge name recognition as they are to post something from a garage band they found on Myspace. The only criteria is quality.

At the present time, the publishing industry (or, rather, the self-publishing industry) has something similar to mp3 blogs as well: Pod Girl, the girl on demand herself. She has made it her goal to seek out good quality books from among the chaff of the publish-on-demand marketplace. Interestingly, most of the books that she has reviewed since she began have received intense scrutiny from the industry. One could argue that this is an early example of how a farm team might work.

As with any reviewer, all that is necessary is that the audience trust in the taste of the critic making the recommendation. Once that credibility has been established, a savvy reader could spend the rest of his life never having to pay for books again. Granted, they might not all be good books (most will probably be very, very bad), but that’s a small price to pay for seeing a deserving book get its just desserts.

This is not even something that the publishing industry should have to pay for. In fact, it’s probably better if they didn’t involve something as materialistic as money in the equation. Let the bird-dogs find the good stuff and take the credit for being on the cutting edge of new fiction. It’s a prestige industry, after all.

(Gawker Media, email me.)