Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Grumpy, cynical, snide -- and it ain't me

It may cross your mind, just occasionally, that the GOB is a little less than 100 per cent patient, tolerant, understanding, and easy-going. Particularly about publishing. But there are people out there who are even meaner and more bad-tempered than me. (Or is it I? Do you care?) pointed me towards an article in the Guardian by Paul Carr, in which he criticises the UK and European publishing community for their response to the Google Print initiative.

The Google Print initiative, by the way, involves the scanning and digitisation of vast numbers of books -- perhaps, in due course, every book ever printed in the entire history of the world -- so that they can be accessed by users of Google. The plan is that human wisdom and knowledge should thereby be made available, to all seekers after the truth, on a far greater scale, and with much greater ease, than is available at present. A worthy plan, you might think. But it has been greeted by prophecies of doom and gloom.

Now as it happens I have already suggested, on this very blog, that the response of UK publishers to this initiative has been a trifle Luddite and short sighted. See my posts of 25 April and 10 May. And now Paul Carr comes along, echoing my words, which he doubtless read (heh heh heh), and adding a few more of his own for good measure.

Paul not only abuses the UK publishing fraternity, but those in most of Europe as well. He accuses them of behaving ridiculously, spending vast amounts of money when small amounts spent in a different way would be better, and generally screwing things up.

Paul goes on to suggest a solution to the 'problem' which would satisfy everyone's needs. It is, he says, 'the ideal solution - and one that's guaranteed to move the relationship between print and web forwards, not backwards. No wonder the publishing industry hasn't thought of it yet.'

Dear me, this is very distressing. All those good folk in publishing are getting beaten up yet again. And they're really awfully nice when you get to know them.

Paul Carr, by the way, is editor in chief of The Friday Project. This I had not heard of before, but it describes itself as follows:
The Friday Thing is a fiercely independent weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced. Despite our best efforts to alienate readers by making light of human tragedy and charging an annual subscription fee, we have been unable to shake off critical acclaim. The Observer described us as "Hilariously cynical", Channel 4 think we're "wicked" and to Time Out we're just "Ace".
You can, if you wish, read a sample of the weekly output here. Warning: if you're American, it might upset you. Come to think of it, if you're English it might upset you too. Oh, the hell with it. It's supposed to be offensive, OK?

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