Keeping Categories

Writing books about movies with a limited budget presents some challenges.  Our subscription to Disney Plus doesn’t really help with the horror genre, but my wife insightfully added Hulu to the package.  Now Hulu isn’t known as a horror streaming hub, but they do have some movies on my viewing list.  The other day I noticed one of their offerings with a title I didn’t recognize.  I  tried searching it on IMDb and came up with nothing.  A bit more research revealed it was an episode of an original Hulu series, mixed in with the horror movies.  The eroding of categories bothers me a bit.  It’s not just Netflix and Hulu and Amazon with movies, but it’s across the board.  I grew up when movie and television were easily distinguished.  Now we live with hybrids.

The same is happening in publishing.  When I sit down to write a book I have a specific end-goal in mind.  Everyone knows what a book is, right?  Well, the future of publishing is all about breaking that down.  Already years ago you could purchase aggregates for classroom use.  These were custom-selected chapters from certain books (electronic, of course) that an instructor could bundle into a “textbook.”  You could mix in articles, blog posts, anything to which you had the rights.  Such a textbook is not a book.  Nobody set out to write it in that form.  It looks like things are moving more and more in that direction.  You’ll be able to purchase just a chapter, or even a paragraph, to use.  Even if the book only makes sense when taken as a whole.

The electronic era is all about breaking down what civilization took centuries to build up.  Not everything about civilization has been good, of course.  It has been patriarchal, treating women unfairly.  It has been supremacist, treating those less technically developed in horrendous ways.  It has been classist, favoring the rich and their interests over those of the vast majority.  Still, it has left us some good legacies—the book, the symphony, the movie.  Such things have made us better people.  It may be fine to break such things down—who knows?  Maybe it will create more fairness for more people.  It won’t help me, however, when I’m trying to write a book about movies.  You still have to know what counts for each category, even if you have to do so on a budget.

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