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The Blog, The Kindle and the Soul

A blog for Inpress? Why not? Traditionally, I’ve done this kind of writing for various print organs as a columnist. It’s something I’ve always loved doing. Writing a regular weekly column puts a frame round your life and helps you make sense of it - so it’s as much for my own benefit as that of the reader. Yet print publications are now in such a parlous state, that freelance columnists are becoming history. Denied a print column outlet, I fret around the house. Meantime, I find myself writing for various blog sites. Why does it not feel the same? Why is the sense of anticipation more muted?

A blog going online brings a different sensation to a hard copy newspaper or mag rolling off the presses on one set day. A blog is wonderfully democratic – why, anyone can write a blog and put it up! But that very process of democracy weakens it. There is no editor, no selection, no particular day of publication, no sense of communality of readership. A blog just sits there forever, rather than being subject to the bittersweet ephemera of a newspaper, - a temporary immediacy, then gone.

My suspicion is that news of the odd blog going viral disguises the millions of others that are barely noticed. Writing blogs does not make my pulse race.

Making the pulse race is also one reason for my publishing books. A book is a work of art. This is independent of the writing style or the author’s literary reputation. The creative journey any writer makes from basic idea to finished manuscript is a fascinating one.

Only less slightly fascinating is the journey that manuscript then undergoes to be transformed into a book; the choice of fonts, the page size, the style, the commissioning of the cover, the dummy, the proofs, weight and texture of the paper, the binding, a whole load of practical and aesthetic decisions leading up to that one moment when the first copies are delivered from the printers.

After 42 years of editing IRON Press, opening that box is still a breathless moment; part terror, part delicious anticipation. Will the book look as planned? Is it properly trimmed? Are there some atrocious misprints? Is the registration correct? Are the cover colours true? Is the binding secure? Is it back to front?

I lovingly handle, open, fondle and caress the book. Sometimes I can smell the print. I am the midwife, proud of the newly born baby. During the next few days I return to it every half hour. I gaze upon it proudly. I am possessive of this book, even though it is not written by me, I have with it a unique relationship. I send the book out into the world nervous as to the reaction. Often there is no reaction. I learn to live with such indifference yet seethe at the injustice.

And as blogs are to hard print, so is Kindle to the physical book. Kindle. What a wonderful invention. I suppose. Yet my reaction to Kindle is similar to that towards blogs. Kindle does not make my pulse race. A book that is not really a book. Several of my own books are available on Kindle. Several IRON Press books, thanks to Inpress, are also now available on Kindle. The list grows. I wish them all luck. I have never been stirred to look at a single one of them.

It is, dear reader, to do with the soul. For me, blogs and Kindle however necessary and pioneering, however technologically exciting and liberating, have no soul. And the soul is something that is beyond technology. Poor me.

Peter Mortimer – Editor, IRON Press