by: Imani Simpson
When thinking about the seemingly endless way of getting media to the public today it’s almost unbelievable that scribes once dedicated their lives to producing manuscripts by hand. While the readers of the early nineteenth century “did not have enough money, leisure or access to… support a literary culture” (McVey) the consumers of today are flooded with media at all angles throughout their daily lives. And with self-publishing coming into play, the options are limitless. But can something be too limitless?
According to a 2013 Huffington Post report, every year between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books are published in the United States alone. IN 1996, UNESCO reported that production of 968,735 “unique [books] per year”. In an article from the Pew Research Center the mean number of books read by the average American, between 2014 and 2015, was 12 books.
Technology, and social media has made it easy to spread information quickly. However, self-publishing doesn’t enforce quality. Self-published works allow the artist to skip over editing and peer-review, adding a mark against their credibility. In addition to this, internet celebrity doesn’t necessarily equal success and is hard won against other artists with the backing of major players in the industry.
In many ways, the modern self-publisher is what the publisher of the 1800s was in terms of the number and scope of their responsibilities. In “Nineteenth Century America: Publishing in a Developing Country” McVey writes that the “early nineteenth century publisher was also a book retailer, often a printer, and sometimes a [wholesaler].”
In the music business for example, artists like Chance the Rapper have had major mainstream success without the help of a record label, a kind of publishing company. His achievements have opened the doors for self-published artists, in this case on Sound Cloud, to be recognized as Grammy eligible in 2018. But not every musician that puts songs on the internet becomes successful or produces quality work.
The surge of self-publishing provides a diverse and plentiful mass of media, written and otherwise. However with the rise in popularity, the publishing industry has less conformity when it comes to certain guidelines and the world has more books than then anyone could read. While it has it’s pros and cons, the constant flood of information in this media saturated culture is something that might be useful to consider.