Stop the Presses!: Information Overload

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.


5 thoughts on “Stop the Presses!: Information Overload

Add yours

  1. Hello Imani!

    I thought this blog post was fantastic and really thought provoking. I really enjoyed the connection you made between modern self-publishers and publishers of the past. When we discussed, “Nineteenth Century America: Publishing in a Developing Country,” in class, I don’t believe we made this connection, or at least, I didn’t! When you mentioned how it may be important we have editors and peer-reviewed work so that quality plays a major role in the publishing industry, I thought of Matthew Stadler’s chapter from our book. Specifically, I thought it related to how even though editors may like a person’s book, it does not mean it necessarily will always get published. While this can be seen as a bad thing, in terms of your argument, it could be a good thing, too. It may make your argument stronger if you connect the two in an expansion later on.

    I also loved the connection you made to Chance the Rapper! I love Chance. I thought if you were to expand on this in the future, it may be worth it to discuss the issue of piracy. With modern technology today, everything goes on the Internet and I think the issue of piracy occurs as a result.

    Again, great job!


  2. I think you are right about the world of publishing becoming much murkier with the advent of self-publishing. Not too long ago, in writing, and especially in music, an independent artist would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a significant measure of success without major backing. As you said, these publishing companies and labels are major backers in their industries. They have at their disposal, finances, business connections, and clout. Independent artistry however seems only right. The artist is producing the product, the originality, the sound, the diction in use, these are all products of their work. They deserve bigger percentages of revenue, and if they aren’t given that, then maybe they should market themselves. It cuts out the middle man, and although it might take longer due to the lack of financial backing, it ensures that you reap most of the profit. Great post.


  3. Imani, your post is something I never thought of but definitely agree with! Self-published authors often times have to market, format, and distribute their work themselves just as publishers did in the 1800s. I thought your analogy to the music industry was very relevant and drew fantastic parallels. I often times think of the similarities between the two industries as they both have to overcome similar problems. Self-publishing in both music and literature allows for diversity, original concepts and more overall creative control of their content.


  4. In recent years, we’re hearing about how too much information can actually be less than a good thing and I think you made some excellent points to that cause. I agree that the ability to self-publish can hurt quality and damage credibility. Now you mentioned close to a million books are published every year. Is this both printed and electronic books? Is it possible for someone to self-publish a printed book? I think it would have been both interesting and helpful to know more details about the publishing process, particularly electronic self-publishing.

    There was also another point you made that caused me to think about the publishing process and its connection to credibility: You mentioned that internet success can actually trump people that are backed by major industry players. Do you think that this success will actually hurt major name publishers, and thus the overall credibility of the publishing industry? In “Nineteenth Century America: Publishing in a Developing Country” we saw how Harper’s was unable to protect a 6,000 British Pound investment in a novel due to piracy. Now self-publishing original work on the internet is not piracy but is it possible to hurt a major publisher by not using them, and if that original work is fraught with inaccuracies because it did not need to measure up to a screening process, that can be problematic for credibility for all publishing. Do you think this is possible, and therefore, problematic?


  5. Great post, and great followup conversation! As others mentioned, the comparison between self publishing and the work of publishers in the 1800s is insightful.

    I appreciate the measured approach you take in this argument, noting both pros and cons to the increase in self-publishing. That said, it could be interesting to shift your argument just a little further to one side or the other. Feel free to take a stand 🙂


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