Thoughts on the launch of Beacon Broadside
September 19, 2007
Before Beacon Broadside launches, setting off into new territory for our press, I thought it might be good to think about the ways in which blogging distinguishes itself from print publication.
I Googled the phrase “books not blogs,” and found this, from Dec. 31, 2004, by Bob Baxley of the blog Drowning in the Current. I don’t know Baxley, and he seems to have let this blog go fallow earlier this year, but I was intrigued by these sentences from his New Year’s Eve reflection:
Somewhere in the middle of the past twelve months, just as the blogosphere was crowding its way into the public debate, I quietly re-discovered books. And owing to that re-discovery I can tell you this: you’re not going to learn anything reading the blogosphere — or at least you’re not going to learn very much.
Now I realize that’s a rather incongruous statement coming as it is from the keeper of a blog, but the simple reality is this: books are to the blogosphere as a five-course meal is to a can of Pringles. And while that’s not to say that some great harm will attend the occasional can of Pringles, even the most nutritionally ignorant must be aware of the deleterious consequences of eating too many fried, potato-chip-like things.
As a book publisher, I can’t argue with the idea that books are the feast, while blogs might be the guilty treat. But I don’t think Baxley gave the medium—including his own version of it—its due. There’s a lot to be learned from blogs, including the very real distinctions between the Web world and the printed word. I’d rather liken a good blog to an appetizer, something to get you ready for the main course. What really caught my attention was that Baxley went on to list the books he’d read that year, with links to descriptions of each, and even though I don’t know him, I took that list as seriously as I would the recommendations of a friend. I’d only just met this guy but I wanted to know what he was reading.
Imagine, then, how interesting it might be to know what some of your favorite or most respected writers are thinking and reading. To be introduced to some intriguing ideas with links that would bring you to articles, essays, and finally (I hope) to books—those we publish and quite a few we don’t. It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.
Helene Atwan began her career in publishing at Random House in 1976; she worked at A.A.Knopf, Viking Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Simon and Schuster, before being named director of Beacon Press in 1995. She served for eight years on the board of PEN-New England and is the Administrator of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.