In 2009, 764,448 books were published outside of “traditional publishing and classification definitions”, according to Bowker. This plethora of self-published titles can be thought of as the ‘slush pile‘, says Laura Miller, and while this future offers authors better options than ever before, it’s the impact on readers themselves that we should be considering (e.g. overwhelming choice, increasingly large numbers of poorly written books, etc.).
In discussing her worries about the “post-publishing” future, Miller looks at how we may consume and deliver books, how the role of the ‘gatekeeper’ will evolve, and ponders the future of antisocial or introverted ‘geniuses’. I liked this on considering the opportunity cost of discovering works of art in the slush pile:
Everybody acknowledges that there have to be a few gems out in the slush pile — one manuscript in 10,000, say — buried under all the dreck. The problem lies in finding it. A diamond encased in a mountain of solid granite may be truly valuable, but at a certain point the cost of extracting it exceeds the value of the jewel. With slush, the cost is not only financial (many publishers can no longer afford to assign junior editors to read unsolicited manuscripts) but also — as is less often admitted — emotional and even moral. […]
I recently confided my worries on this account to former Salon editor Scott Rosenberg, but he was unperturbed. In the near future, he assured me, “‘publication’ will become meaningless.” […] Readers will be saved from wading through slush by amateur authorities — bloggers and other pundits specializing in particular subjects or genres — who will point their followers to the best books. “People will find new ways to decide which books merit their attention.”