Lofty Ideas

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Wachtell sees long-form texts, or “lofties,” as important because they are the vehicles for “creative, illuminating, controversial, and important ideas” to be communicated to society (1). These kinds of texts should be important to readers, and readers should be able to differentiate these texts from other kind of texts. For Wachtell, long-form texts don’t necessarily mean long as in many pages; long-form relates to the process of creating the text. This extended process is readily apparent in lofty non-fiction books because of the amount of research, travel, and development required for those books. The question for publishers is how do lofties fit into their developing business model for the digital age? Will there be enough income generated to support authors in their lofty goals? Wachtell seems concerned that lofties won’t work in the current business model (while still being made in print form) or that digital lofties aren’t necessarily innovative enough, but I’m concerned that new lofties will begin to slowly fade away entirely. I know my concerns won’t truly come to be, but I worry nonetheless. What if authors that want to write a certain kind of illuminating or important book aren’t given the resources to create such a book? I’m sure someone has had this same worry before, even with just print books. It seems valid when looking at the move to digital because digital books are easier to circulate freely, but I’ll try not to dwell on it!

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Mr. F's picture

Research, travel and

Research, travel and development have been fundamental to the creation of long-form texts, but what happens when those processes are supplanted by digital communication? Watchell admits that long-form texts are seldom the product of one individual's motivation-- in a fully networked Earth, research and travel can occur from one's computer desk, and development can be streamlined not only because of faster correspondence between authors, editors, and publishers, but through the use of new tools that make composition easier overall.~

chelsiemess's picture

I think I'm more worried

I think I'm more worried about the opposite effect--the glut of unilluminating and unimportant books now being empowered by digital tools. (I know that sounds really snobby, so hear me out.) Writers who previously could have benefitted from the advice and development of an editor/publisher may now be more inclined to self-publish using available digital tools. Books with immense potential may be now buried under a pile of badly written romance ebooks. Worse yet, truly good authors may now be overlooked?

cmmayberry's picture

I like the question you posed

I like the question you posed: "for publishers, how do "lofties" fit into their developing business model for the digital age"? I think the example of Lisa Dodson and her efforts to exemplify her research suffice to explain that those extended processes may not always provide income for the author. Granted, from what I remember, she did succeed but you make a great point when saying that the business model we use now may not provide opportunity for all authors, editors, etc that bring solid lofty ideas to the table. I'm hoping that those authors who desire to create a book, but lack the resources, find a way to jump the hiatus.