Publishing is a slow business. In a world of instant information, such plodding may appear to be old-fashioned. Outdated. Each step of the process takes time and anyone can sit down and type thoughts directly into the internet, so why bother with traditional publishing? These thoughts come to me as I read through the proofs of Holy Horror, and work on the index. This is time-consuming, and time is hard to come by. That, I suppose, is a major reason for doing things this way. Ironically, people don’t have a problem seeing that handmade items—which tend to take time and be less efficient than machine-made articles—are more valuable. They represent care and quality, things that a machine can’t assess well. This is the world beyond math. It is the human world.
Those of us born before computers took over sometimes have difficulty adjusting. The world of the instant goes well with inflation—the myth that constant growth in a limited world is possible. The fact is that value is a human judgment and we value things that take time. It’s true that most non-fiction books are instantly dated these days. Often it’s because information flies more quickly than pre-press operations. It takes a couple years to write a book and a publisher takes a year or two getting it into print. Back when the process was invented news traveled slowly and, I venture to say as a historian of sorts, didn’t often carry the dramatic shifts we witness today. A book could take a long time to appear and still be fresh and new when it did. For the internet generation it may be hard to see that this is an issue of quality.
Most of us are content with the satisfactory. We’re willing to sacrifice quality for convenience. We do it all the time. Then, in the recording industry, vinyl starts to come back. Corporate bigwigs—for whom fast and cheap is best—express surprise. Why would anyone buy a record? The question can only be answered by those who’ve listened to one. There is a difference, a difference that we’ve mostly been willing to jettison for the convenience of the instant download. Our lives are being cluttered with disposable-quality material. Even now I’m writing this daily update for my blog rather than continuing the drudgery of working on an index. We all have expectations of alacrity, I guess. The slower world of publishing is more my speed.