Five Articles for Writers, Editors and Publishers

Today I attended BookCamp Vancouver at SFU. It’s was a well-run, well-organized event that frequently featured an engaging exchange of ideas. It probably could have used a few more of the unconference features that make BarCamp so special. I expect some industries are more comfortable than others with this kind of open, egalitarian model, so better baby steps than none at all.

Throughout the day, I recommended a number of articles to various writers, editors and publishers. I figured I might as well gather them here in case they’re of interest. Long time readers have probably seen me recommend one or more of these articles before:

  • The Economy of Ideas by John Perry Barlow – From 1994, but still pretty relevant today. Extremely prescient for the time. “Even the physical/digital bottles to which we’ve become accustomed – floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and other discrete, shrink-wrappable bit-packages – will disappear as all computers jack-in to the global Net. While the Internet may never include every CPU on the planet, it is more than doubling every year and can be expected to become the principal medium of information conveyance, and perhaps eventually, the only one. “
  • The Next Economy of Ideas by John Perry Barlow – Six years later, and even more insightful. I’ve been saying this next sentence ever since I read this piece: “Art is a service, not a product. Created beauty is a relationship, and a relationship with the Holy at that. Reducing such work to “content” is like praying in swear words.”
  • 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly – I recommend this to every artist I meet, regardless of medium. It’s an extremely elegant way of thinking about fostering community and building an audience. For some reason it reminds me of the central metaphor in Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”. “A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”

I wanted to offset those first three from the next two because the former are truly remarkable, visionary pieces. The next two are smart thinking and worth reading, but might pale a bit by comparison.


  1. Oops, looks like you needed an editor before you published this one — your title contains a typo, repeating the word Articles in place of Editors. 🙂

    1. Thanks for that. Most ironic error ever. It no doubt has something to do with the fact that our book is going to the printers next week, and I’ll be done with editors for a while.

  2. Thanks Darren!

    I’ll do my best to write a real manifesto — however, it will probably take the next couple months! This is just the beginning of the Lean Publishing blog/book…

  3. While his article is about newspapers, I also recommend Clay Shirky’s March 2009 “Thinking the Unthinkable,” which is well considered, recalling that there were decades of chaos after Gutenberg’s printing press before people figured out how to make new business models — and we’re going through a similar transition now. Shirky includes these bits of wisdom:

    “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you’ve got a problem.” – Gordy Thompson of the NYT

    “When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to. There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.”

    I particularly like that last bit, which reminds us that just because things are falling apart for the publishing business model as it existed in the 20th century, there is no law of the universe requiring that something equivalent replace it — or that even if it does, that the new model appear before the old one disintegrates.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Darren. I heard a number of references to that Kevin Kelly article throughout the day at BookCamp, so I’m glad you linked to it because I hadn’t noted it down.

    I read the Powazek post when it came out a week or so ago – he’s definitely a little over-emotional, but he makes a good point. Danny Sullivan’s retort over at SearchEngineLand is worth a read as a counterpoint, too:

    BTW – totally off topic, but your comment form is mostly chopped off and unusable in IE8. If I switch to IE7 compatibility mode, though, it works fine.


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