The New Way of Publishing

I have a copy of D. T. Suzuki’s book, Zen and Japanese Culture, that I bought when it was first published in 1959.  It is a revised edition.  “Since the first edition,” he says in the introduction, “I have come to be better informed on the subjects it treats; and naturally, I have desired to rewrite the whole book.  But to do so would involve a great deal of time and labor that I can ill afford in the present circumstances.  What I have done, however, is to revise the original material only in so far as necessary. . . .”

Oh, thanks!  You didn’t know what you were talking about in the first edition, but you are too busy to fix it properly so you just patched it up.  When I read that long ago, I was sorry I bought the book (although not after I got further into it).

When I re-read one of my own blog postings, I almost always see something very minor to change, such as adding a word or taking out a comma.  And I do, even if no one is likely to ever see it, much less notice (except for the real gaffs that occasionally occur).  It is so easy.  It’s kind of like viewing a recently painted wall while still holding the brush and open paint can.  You will almost certainly see some minor blemish to touch up.

Authors of e-books can also make corrections to their work anytime, and this is a major change in publishing.  Ever since the invention of writing, once something was set in wet clay, carved in stone, written on sheepskin, or just printed in a paperback, it was unchangeable.  That was often the reason for writing it in the first place.

When we open a printed book, we are used to looking at the publishing date and thinking, well, that’s how it was then.  But no longer.  An e-book has no specific publishing date.  Open one of those in ten years and you will never know how it compares to the original.  Everything forever remains a draft, and authors like Suzuki will never again have to apologize for mistakes.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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