In the days of pushbutton publishing without the threat of quality control in the form of an editor, it is easy to become a writer or a critic. Yet I wonder how many sincere writers and critics, who toil the internet day after day in the hope of increased readership, will ever get to see their words in physical shape, in the blackness of ink on paper that smells of newness. The magic of the printed word – in that first story, essay or novel making it through the barbs of censure and heaps of submission – brings much joy to the heart of an aspiring writer, besides elevating one’s status with that formidable adjective prefixed to their nomination: “published author”, published still meaning the print medium.
But despite success in print, many authors today maintain an online presence, not as a source of their primary work but as an introductory platform, prompting a surfer to dig deeper, buy one’s books, or partake in discussions of mutual interest. The widespread reach and easy accessibility of the internet has rendered it a very viable and valuable source for useful literary information – from book reviews and critiques through countless blogs to lecture notes and reading topics of students and teachers. Universities use it to dispense online courses, and some, like MIT, have thrown open their cyber doors to one and all, many of their courses available for free. Here’s a link to the MIT Open Coursweare available for Literature: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Literature/
There’s no denying the fact that the internet and its associated technologies have forever altered our reading and writing habits, enabling us to disseminate our opinions freely while making it easy to elicit information of interest. In the future, I can only see this influence grow, not only in numbers, but in the depth and quality of the participants.
However, I cannot imagine the cyber word replacing its printed counterpart. There’s a solid, timeless feel to a book that can never be achieved online. There’s also the fear of short attention spans and flickering interests deterring the serious publisher or writer. And ultimately, there’s the wall of quality that one must scale to reach “Published” heights, which of course with sufficient infrastructure is not unachievable online, say in the form of paid subscriptions.
But even there, I doubt if the user will not prefer clicking the print menu from the browser after logging in, to feel the magic of the ink on paper.