Nietzsche And The Downfall Of Big Publishing

This post, by Smashwords founder Mark Coker, originally appeared on the Smashwords blog on 3/3/11.

In the dark alleyways of publishing, an author uprising is brewing against Big Publishing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about revolution lately thanks to the events unfolding in North Africa.

My wife, Lesleyann, has friends in Egypt, and they’ve kept us up to date via email. Their dispatches alternate between fear, uncertainty, optimism and celebration.

Revolutions are an awkward and messy business. They represent the end of one paradigm and the beginning of the next. While the root causes can trace back decades, when the uprising arrives it can occur with alarming rapidity.

The events in North Africa have recalibrated the meaning of "revolution" for me. I’m thinking now about revolution in the context of a popular uprising.

At the heart of any revolution is a loss of faith in the prevailing regime. In Egypt’s case, a number of catalysts precipitated the revolution; chief among them an oppressive political environment that offered little opportunity for democratic participation, freedom of speech and economic opportunity.

Frederick Nietzsche wrote, “God is dead.” I recall my philosophy professor at U.C. Berkeley 25 years ago explaining the quote with great passion. He said the beauty of the quote went beyond its immediate religious connotation – it was a metaphor for the power of faith. When you believe in something, your faith powers that in which you believe.

If we lose faith in an institution, a regime or a belief system, the very survival of that institution is imperiled.

Every institution is powered by faith. If your house catches on fire, you have faith the local fire department will respond. If you purchase a tomato from your local farmer’s market, you have faith the item you purchased will indeed taste like a tomato.

Often, faith is based on some future expected result. You can’t touch, smell or see it in the present. If we are rewarded for our faith, such as trusting that fire truck to come when we expect it, then our faith in that institution is reinforced.

Faith is the single most important force-of-nature driving all human experience.

Faith, religion, revolution, and publishing. Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this. The embedded PowerPoint below represents my attempt to pull it all together and make sense of where the publishing world is headed.

 

See the slideshow, and read the rest of the post, on the Smashwords blog.

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