09 August 2010


In the nineteen short years since Tim Berners-Lee first proposed a concept called the World Wide Web, the Internet has revolutionized nearly every aspect of our lives. It has become my personal library, a window onto the world, and a source for information and images beyond imagination. The exponential growth of online resources and activities is like watching bunnies have babies -- they breed so fast that they take your breath away.

In the world of literature, most of us are starting to realize that (a) many writers are forced to self-publish at their own expense (since the traditional big five book-publishing houses are swamped); and (b) many readers are switching from hard-copy books to electronic reading devices which can download from services such as Kindle, iPad or Nook. These services represent a flowering of the Internet model -- a growing network of communication that is user-driven and user-defined, further enhancing our connection to the rest of the world.

Now comes a report that one writer has discovered that (a) plus (b) can equal an unexpected (c). Boyd Morrison had no luck finding a publisher for his books, until he decided to upload his writing to Kindle. Within several months, he was selling 4000 copies a month. It's a whole new world for us aspiring writers. The traditional route of securing an agent, gaining the interest of a publishing editor, negotiating a contract, grinding out the rewrites, securing sales outlets, and going on promotional book-signing tours, has now been augmented in serious fashion by the ease and immediacy of electronic publishing.

Of course, with all that freedom comes responsibility, for both writer and reader. Who wants to spend money reading raw, unvetted tripe? There is virtue in the traditional publishing process, with its editorial review and endorsements by known book critics and authors. Still, as a foot in the door, a writer with talent and vision (otherwise lost in a sea of similar writers) now has an additional avenue for being read. And that can only be a good thing. Just ask my cats.

[Note: As a reader, I shall always prefer books, preferably hardbound. I like the weight, the texture, the smell, the lighting, the fonts. Call me old-fashioned. As a nascent writer, I'm happy for any and all means for getting published.]

In passing, I came across a very interesting article on multitasking -- does it exist, or is it an illusion? The article at Science 2.0 breaks down our mental processes into their components, and explains (using analogies from computer functioning) how the perception of multitasking is misleading -- and notes the potential downside of imagining that we are truly capable of tracking with full attention three, four or five tasks simultaneously. If you doubt this, take a look at the rise in traffic accidents involving drivers who were talking on their call phones (or even texting) while behind the wheel. Check out the article so see how it all works.

Lastly, for your musical pleasure and a tickle to your funny bone, here are links to a brief performance by guitarist and singer Javier Batiz (the teacher and mentor to guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana), and an even briefer blonde joke for intellectuals. I know too many brilliant blondes to place much faith in the dumb blonde stereotype, but this one slid in the zinger so adeptly that I had to laugh. Sorry. No I'm not.

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