The Good Life of a New-Media Guru
Is Jeff Jarvis gloating too much about the death of print?
Then we travel with Jarvis to the Frankfurt Book Fair, another example of the downfall of print and the rise of Jarvis:
The Frankfurt convention grounds are also jammed with books from all around the world. What struck me was the optimism of it: all that work to create books on the hope that someone would read them. And they make fun of bloggers for whistling in the wind.
I was there on Saturday to speak with Wolfgang Blau, editor-in-chief of Zeit Online for what turned out to be a sizeable audience. ...
Note his dim view of the "book people" and their foolish romantic optimism. These poor fools; they might as well be making buggy whips. Sure, they do serve some purpose—merchandizing his book—so it's good they're still in the foolish business long enough for him to monetize their death. But otherwise, if they don't make big profits, dead-tree books are not worth doing, according to the new-media gospel.
Then it's time for a little self-congratulation while scores lose their jobs:
Sometime ago, I used TV Guide as a cautionary tale to beware the cash cow in the coal mine. How now, said cow—which not long ago sold more copies every year than any other magazine—just sold for $1. Beware media and news companies that try to preserve their past: This could be you. Moo.
(I didn't make up that "Moo." That's new-media wit.)
We can learn more about Jarvis' ambition to guru-hood by studying his remarkable endorsement of the New Age boilerplate mysticism of Paulo Coelho, which we learn about as he shares with us the exciting experience of his triumph at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
In one of his Frankfurt posts, he discusses a talk given by worldwide best-seller Coelho. * (He claims 100 million books sold.) In his talk, Coelho advocated giving away the digital content of books for free as a means of boosting sales.
"That has certainly been Coelho's experience," notes Jarvis (who calls Coelho—I kid you not—"the Googliest author I know"). "Freely available electronic files have led to increased print sales in territory after territory—including the US, where [Coelho's] The Alchemist has been on the NYT bestseller list for a full year even though it was among the first of his titles to be available online at Harper's web site."
Surely Jarvis is intelligent enough to see that the Coelho model won't work for everyone. Sure, if you break through to New Age guru status and peddle the notion that everyone can discover their own fabulousness (from the jacket of the Alchemest, aka New Age Mysticism for Dummies: "A discovery of the treasure found within"), you're more likely to have a audience that will support you by buying the hard cover to doubly reaffirm their vanity. (A new definition of "vanity press"?)
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.