Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Publishing on the Web
I found a link to this site while wandering around online a little while ago. To summarize, it's a site offering software that supposedly allows anyone to "publish" their own books. While self-publishing is nothing new, the creators of this software claim that they have made it so easy as to render it trivial (alright, that second part is my claim).
The frontpage is dominated by a rotating set of testimonials from various users. The one that's up currently proclaims, "Meet Jim, a banker. He's written three cookbooks. This month." One might be inclined to scoff and say, "Well they weren't real books, were they?" but some poking around on the page reveals that the creators of this software offer a method to convert "books" made in that format into physical "bookstore quality" product. And they will tell you how to do this for the low low price of 14.95.
Maybe I'm just being an elitist, but when I hear that someone has "written three books this month" my immediate reaction is "Who the hell would want to read books like that?" While the books people are making in this software are apparently not all that long on average, the idea of work that was slapped together in a couple weeks being published in any form seems pretty ridiculous. Isn't the system there for a reason? I'm sure that some of the things people are making with this software are perfectly decent, but I don't think that churning out published product a few times a month is really doing anybody any good, except perhaps the author who gets to proudly display a shelf full of things that they have "had published." By that logic, why don't I just bind every single one of my blog posts in rich red leather? As I see it, the publishing model that those behind blurb.com extol so enthusiastically is on the verge of what we might call paper-blogging. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's great that people can do this, power to the people, art for its own sake, etc. However, I can't help but feel like this sort of rampant self-publishing somehow cheapens the idea of being published, which still implies that the work passed some sort of quality filter. Granted, I'll probably never see one of these books in person unless I jump on the horse and make one, but I don't think that's very likely. I suppose my position on this could just be summarized by saying, "start a damn blog instead."