Quick Hits and The Future of the Book

Tina Brown, Goin’ Rogue, and the Limits of Timeliness

By posted at 7:22 am on October 27, 2009 0

In a recent issue of The New York Times, Tina Brown explained the rationale behind her nascent Book Beast project thusly:

There is a real window of interest when people want to know something. . . . And that window slams shut pretty quickly in the media cycle.

As a diagnosis, this is accurate – there is a real window (or at least a figurative one) – but it begs a number of relevant questions. For instance: Isn’t the erstwhile “Queen of Buzz” part of the problem of dwindling attention spans, rather than part of the solution? (I suppose you can’t unslam a window any more than you can unring a bell, but still…)

coverMs. Brown’s remedy is, characteristically, to get books out there even faster, publishing topical e-books and paperbacks “on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.” However, the imminent arrival of Going Rogue – whose gestation period was shorter than a goat’s – would seem to suggest that Beast Books will differ from today’s “traditional books” more in degree than in kind. (On the other hand, from a marketing standpoint, I suppose Ms. Brown was right: six months was long enough for me to realize I’m tired of reading about Sarah Palin. If it had been available in March, I might have bought the sucker.)

Now, at The New Republic, Damon Linker has blogged a pretty succinct summation of Beast Books’ weird commingling of the redundant, the oxymoronic, and the inevitable:

Opining is fun, and so is ideological combat. But a book is, or should be, something different: A chance to slow down. An opportunity to raise one’s sights a little higher. . . . To reflect instead of react. What Beast Books is proposing . . . is (in Truman Capote’s words) the reduction of writing to typing.

Presumably, this is just the sort of “something” that might merit book-length treatment…were the whole subject not so last week.

Bonus link: The Art of Fashionable Lateness

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