I had read an interview of one very established books publishing company, uttering the expected, that they follow where the readers are. Obviously businesses will follow where the capital is. However at what price?
In last few years, there have been uncountable occasions where I have picked up a book in a bookstore under bestsellers section and have been astonished that there is a book published for writing like that, let alone it being a bestseller. Turns out readers have loved it and there is a large following in social media for that author. So publishers have chosen to put it in print with minimal to no effort on its quality and editing since they know there is a huge market for that ‘content’.
This process has churned many incredibly poor books thrown our way in these last years. It has also somewhat lowered our chances to see great writing since it is usually hidden deep under the big pile of bestsellers. But that doesn’t seem to have bothered these publishers and the respective writers because profit is pretty hefty with the massive readership behind the project. Readers are equally happy to have found their favorite Instagram quotes and memes in a book, not that there is anything wrong in that.
It is a perfectly beautiful model of supply and demand. So why is it an issue? Because it stenches of corruption similar to new technologies being developed without ethical and moral responsibilities. Social media companies were always solely focused on making their apps addictive rather than also accounting for mental health and value time of their users. Of course users should be cognizant enough to manage themselves but that doesn’t relieve these companies to own social responsibilities. Sales and profit at any cost have led to a dysfunctional generation glued to their screens, battling self-esteem on a daily basis, and faking their identities to earn more likes and followers. Privacy of citizens and democracy itself have been attacked because these companies were reckless in the blind race to raise their dollars.
These publishers selecting to print solely based on footprint of the author in social media rather than their work, are no different. Because of their lack of taking any responsibility in the quality of work being put in the market, we as readers will continue to face lower probability of coming across exciting and unique books. In other words as users and consumers we have been denied good quality and diverse products because of the monopoly gained by these publishers solely focusing on monetary earnings.
Why is there no quality control whatsoever by these publishers? Why are such poorly designed products allowed to enter our market?
Once we had complained that historically some powerful publishers were the gatekeepers controlling who can write and who cannot, who can be published and who cannot. We had become excited watching the trends over last few years that a new democracy in the writing world was afoot, with anyone in the remotest corner of the world having an opportunity to put their work out there via opportunities provided by social media forums.
Unfortunately this was quickly manipulated by a new group of publishers who established themselves in these new grounds and did exactly what the previous set had done, that is to exploit the system and the masses for their fat profits.
While making money is no crime, it is their responsibility to at least do some basic editing, fix basic grammar, promote some basic sense of composition and depth in the work, before the product reaches the selling shelves. Authors should be doing the same if they are even remotely interested in improving their work. Readers should learn to be mindful and intelligent consumers, not getting duped as they have in the past, in all the capitalist models and businesses. With this general shared responsibility, we can see monetary and intellectual rewards flowing in for everyone. Otherwise we will just be the generation of bestsellers.