Jonathan Franzen on Amazon, Twitter and Facebook (1 Viewer)

Johannes

Founding member
In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they're the only business hiring. And the more of the population that lives like those workers, the greater the downward pressure on book prices and the greater the squeeze on conventional booksellers, because when you're not making much money you want your entertainment for free, and when your life is hard you want instant gratification ("Overnight free shipping!").

But so the physical book goes on the endangered-species list, so responsible book reviewers go extinct, so independent bookstores disappear, so literary novelists are conscripted into Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion, so the Big Six publishers get killed and devoured by Amazon: this looks like an apocalypse only if most of your friends are writers, editors or booksellers. Plus it's possible that the story isn't over. Maybe the internet experiment in consumer reviewing will result in such flagrant corruption (already one-third of all online product reviews are said to be bogus) that people will clamour for the return of professional reviewers. Maybe an economically significant number of readers will come to recognise the human and cultural costs of Amazonian hegemony and go back to local bookstores or at least to barnesandnoble.com, which offers the same books and a superior e-reader, and whose owners have progressive politics. Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter's and Facebook's latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/13/jonathan-franzen-wrong-modern-world
 

PhillyDave

“The essential doesn't change.” Beckett
Yeah, there's only a few here in Philly too. One of the best used/rare book store died last year and it had been around for like 80 years. There are, however, a lot of thrift stores that can help build a library.
 

mjp

Founding member
Blaming Jeff Bezos for the downfall of "literature" is funny. This guy is saying that the old way of doing things, a limited number of publishers and reviewers, was better. But it isn't as if people suddenly started liking shitty art because there are no more "professional" reviewers. People have always like bad art because most people aren't discerning. Those who are discerning will always seek out "quality."

His real concern is that it's becoming harder for him to make large amounts of money through his writing in this new marketplace. The same thing wealthy musicians have been crying about for a decade. The dilution of their income. As if they are entitled to that wealth.

The bottom line is, if people preferred printed books - and the old retail model - they would buy them, and book stores would be flourishing.

Those of you old enough to remember the introduction of movies on videotape surely remember the articles and news stories that appeared virtually everywhere, grimly predicting the imminent demise of the movie theater. But that didn't happen, because people still like the experience of going to a theater.

There are those who believe that people will "come back" to printed books in a kind of anti-electronic backlash (like some musicians "came back" to analog instruments and sound after computers took over music in the 80s and 90s), but it's not likely. Electronic books are an improvement over paper books in most ways. Their weakness lies in the weakness of all electronic storage in its ultimate lack of permanence. That may ultimately be a problem. But it isn't at the moment.

And honestly, I think some kind of permanent electronic storage will eventually be created. Something that will insure that files will be always be "playable" in the future, despite the changes to hardware. Whoever invents that (probably Jeff Bezos) is going to become the world's most wealthy human.
 

Johannes

Founding member
I agree. It's an elitist view on an industry that has already changed forever. There is no going back.

Franzen made millions out of his books, haggled with Oprah, all that. He could relax. He's the 2013 version of Metallica, trying to sue Napster.

That a few elitist snob-publishers and "professional" reviewers provide or support quality in art is bullshit. They support nothing but themselves.
 
The chain stores fuck mom and pop and Amazon fucks the chain stores. To argue against more efficient content delivery is quaint, at best.
And as the world vertically integrates so does publishing. Franzen is a wanker. He can't open his cake-hole without betraying his contempt for the dirty masses who crave free shipping and instant gratification. Fuck you, you bird watching(that's his fag hobby) piece of shit.
David Wallace ate your lunch motherfucker. Anyway, thought I'd chime in.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Anyway, thought I'd chime in.

Not the best idea, my friend.

While Franzens view on Amazon, Twitter and the modern world might be elitist and disputed there is no need for this senseless rant and homophobe insults.

Now calm down and reread The Corrections on your Kindle, bro.
 
As an aside I find it quite funny when you get a self-published book on Amazon which has about 5 5-star reviews, all from users who've only reviewed that one product and with a modicum of detail as to why they like the book. That's probably worse than a load of terrible reviews in terms of promoting the thing.
 
Read everything Franzen has written except Freedom. Never found his writing to be that exciting. As far as homophobic, the use of "fag" was meant more as a cultural pejorative than a sexual one. Thanks for calming me down though, bro.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
Why yes... standing in a freezing wooden shed deep in the forest, with a pair of binoculars, looking out for some rare and interesting birds (of the feathered variety) with a load of other strange men - it's usually men isn't it - what's not to love?
 

hoochmonkey9

Art should be its own hammer.
Reaper Crew
Moderator
Founding member
I find it's a 50/50 split between men and women. We have a surge of single middle aged men on "Peacock Day!" but they always seem to leave dissapointed and we never see the same ones again. Sort of like the Fluted Speckled Sparrow Hawk!

I guess you have to be a birder to get that joke...
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
So you're a twitcher! I have binoculars too, but mine are different - designed for looking at the moon etc. and an old telescope too. Think that's all the revelations about hobbies, before people start to get scared and scarred.
Perhaps the single middle aged men were expecting something different from "Peacock Day" alas, next stop; trainspotting.

Just looked up fluted speckled sparrow hawk and er, yep, I would say that's pretty much an insider joke.
 
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d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
since the topic was raised (birds and jokes) -

if the dove is the symbol of love, what bird is the symbol of true love..?


the "swallow"...
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Blaming Jeff Bezos for the downfall of "literature" is funny. This guy is saying that the old way of doing things, a limited number of publishers and reviewers, was better. But it isn't as if people suddenly started liking shitty art because there are no more "professional" reviewers. People have always like bad art because most people aren't discerning. Those who are discerning will always seek out "quality."

His real concern is that it's becoming harder for him to make large amounts of money through his writing in this new marketplace. The same thing wealthy musicians have been crying about for a decade. The dilution of their income. As if they are entitled to that wealth.

Thats a cheap shot MJP. The book Franzen has translated has absolutely nothing to do with making money.
You yourself have commented on how creativity and originality in music, these days, seems to have dwindled.
What Franzen - thru his translation of Karl Kraus' essays - is saying is that technology is dumbing us down:

-A key factor for Kraus,” Franzen writes in one of his welcome and, often, very involving footnotes, “was that technology and modernization were diminishing the space that the imagination needed to thrive.”"

Try reading what one of your local rags has to say about the matter: lareviewofbooks.org/review/our-distraction-franzens-kraus-project.
 

Johannes

Founding member
There is a popular and much discussed book in Germany around recently by a very famous psychiatrist. The book is called "Digital Dementia" in translation. It's main theory is that the internet, Facebook, Twitter and so on are driving us dumb and stupid by overpowering our senses with multitasking and a shallow flood of too much senseless information.

It think this (like Franzens points in the same direction) is plain wrong and nearsighted and founded in personal animosity against the "modern world", whatever the reasons for this animosity might be.

It's a platitude, but it's all about how you use it. You can use Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Smartphones and all of that in the most dumbass senseless way and millions are doing it exactly like that, no doubt. But it's not the media and the horrible "modern world" which are driving anybody stupid, you were stupid in the first place if you act stupid through and with these tools.
 

mjp

Founding member
Thats a cheap shot MJP. The book Franzen has translated has absolutely nothing to do with making money.
And his rant (the part Johannes quoted, anyway) has nothing to do with the Kraus book as a product. If his point is that no one will find his Kraus translation because of all the "noise" on Amazon, then it makes even less sense, since that's a specialized book whose audience will seek it out and easily find it whether it's promoted or not.
Franzen: making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less...
Allow me to translate that: Writers should make a lot of money.
Franzen: literary novelists are conscripted into Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion...
This also shows just how out of touch Franzen is, since even his "Big Six publishers" require new authors to do almost all of their own promotion. But he wouldn't know anything about that because he benefits from the promotion given to established moneymakers.

He's a successful writer who doesn't know how things work anymore, and he's bemoaning the fact that it's harder for him to pay his taxes and the mortgage on his summer home. He can cry about that all he'd like, but it just makes him look like an smug, insulated fossil.
you were stupid in the first place if you act stupid through and with these tools.
Exactly.

All throughout history people who are uncomfortable with change blame the technology of that change for the destruction of society. People fretting over Facebook and smart phones today are no different than the original Luddites smashing the steam looms.

Technology is like a virus. You can try to control its spread, but you will never stop it from running its course. Good or bad.
 

hoochmonkey9

Art should be its own hammer.
Reaper Crew
Moderator
Founding member
I personally think technology and its various vehicles don't make people dumb, but it makes the dumb people dumber and it makes it easier to see those dumb people.

We all know dumb people out number the smart, so it makes it a lot harder for someone like me in the middle to find the smart. But I'm willing to do it.

I'm not sure what has to do with selling books or getting paid for writing books though. Or bird watching. Which I don't actually do. Not actively anyway. More in a passive sense, "Hey, a bird just landed in front of me. I won't look away." Like that.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
Or bird watching. Which I don't actually do..." Like that.
Oh hell... I believed you, what an eedjit I am.

One wish I have regarding the people who cry out about technology destroying our humanity and intelligence, put your money where your mouth, is and stop using it then, instead of using it and hating yourself for it in the morning, so to speak. That's just phoney and hypocritical.

So like most of us appreciate it and thank bloody hell we're not living in 1780 or whatever. People will always use technology to make their life easier, more entertaining and since the first man made tools and weapons, it will always be a good and a bad thing.

Also not sure about it making dumb people look dumber, I'm scared that it makes them look smarter.
 
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I think Franzen is making two points which he conflates: 1) the effect of Amazon and digital media outlets on the book trade and author income and 2) the measurable effect of loss of memory and concentration caused by reliance on the Internet and electronic devices. The two points are both real and should be looked at separately, which is a fault of his piece because he implies a connection where none exists (or if it did exist, is irrelevant). Whether or not Franzen has a personal (financial) interest in these topics neither supports nor invalidates his arguments.
 

Johannes

Founding member
the measurable effect of loss of memory and concentration caused by reliance on the Internet and electronic devices.

That's an often heard argument but I never believed that to be true. It might be the case, I don't know any numbers or graphs or even if there are any. But then, how do you measure concentration and memory in this context?

If at school the teacher is talking about, let's say the Crimean War while all the children are updating their Facebook status via their Smartphones, of course they will seem unconcentrated and won't know shit about the Crimean War. But take away the Smartphones and they will read comic books, sleep, scratch things on the table, take drugs or torture each other and still won't know shit about the Crimean War. Again it's not the technology, it's the people in the first place.

On the other hand there is the often cited 16 year old "hacker" who is breaking down International Databases or designing Viruses and Malware in his mothers bedroom to end the civilized world forever. He won't get very far without concentration and memory and suddenly it's there. Posting and reading dull crap on Facebook all his life did not change a thing.
 
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mjp

Founding member
the effect of Amazon and digital media outlets on the book trade and author income...
If the book trade shrinks due to technological progress, then maybe we have to admit that it was time for it to shrink. I don't think it will ever completely disappear.

As for "author income," you have to be more specific. Because digital media (and promotion) have been a boon to independent author's income, and a detriment to pre-Internet established author's income (see: Franzen).
the measurable effect of loss of memory and concentration caused by reliance on the Internet and electronic devices.
I would defer to some scientists who suggest that perhaps we don't need the same kind of memory now that we did when we told each other stories around the fire. Does a reduced amount of concentration have a correlation to a reduced readership for many kinds of books? I would think that it does. So maybe it's time for books to change too.

Which is just to say, you ain't gonna stop any of this, so we have the choice to either adapt or become less relevant.

Most of us will become less relevant, because that's the fate of each departing generation.
;)
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Marshall McLuhan was right when he pointed out that the medium is the massage.
"McLuhan adopted the term "massage" to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium, taking inventory of the "effects" of numerous media in terms of how they "massage" the sensorium."

I'm pretty sure the daily massive media mash is dumbing down the concentration skills of kids. But maybe its sharpening some other kind of skill which has yet to be tapped.

One thing's for sure: Finding time to do nothing and ruminate over a book is getting harder & harder in this 24/7 brave tech world. (But my new Kindle has actually helped...)
 
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